The Emancipation Proclamation at 150

An elderly ex-slave reads the Proclamation in 1947 (Time & Life/Getty)
An elderly ex-slave reads the Proclamation in 1947 (Time & Life/Getty)

On this day 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, stating that by the following New Year's Day in 1863, slaves across America would be "thenceforward and forever free." According to a release from the White House, President Obama, in addition to signing a law erecting a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.'s Emancipation Hall, earlier this week delivered a few words to mark this important anniversary.

… One hundred and fifty years after that historic event, we recognize an important milestone in the American story and reflect on the progress we have made toward realizing our Nation's founding promise of liberty and justice for all.

Though it would take decades of struggle before African Americans were granted equal treatment and protection under the law, the Emancipation Proclamation marked a courageous step forward in fulfilling that essential task. It affirmed that the Civil War was a war fought not only for the preservation of our union, but for freedom itself. And by opening the Union Army and Navy to African American men, the Proclamation gave new strength to liberty's cause.

The Emancipation Proclamation stands among the documents of human freedom. As we commemorate this 150th anniversary, let us rededicate ourselves to the timeless principles it championed and celebrate the millions of Americans who have fought for liberty and equality in the generations since.

Barack Obama


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