EJI's History of Racial Injustice Highlight: The Emancipation Proclamation

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Enslaved people who have just escaped from a Virginia plantation in 1862. (Library of Congress)

Slavery was not abolished by the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The proclamation applied only to enslaved people in states that were in rebellion in 1863, namely South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina. It exempted Tennessee and portions of Virginia and Louisiana that were occupied by the Union and left slavery untouched in the border states of Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri.

Exercising his powers as commander in chief, President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation primarily as a wartime measure. Key provisions allowing for the service of former slaves in the Union army and navy opened the door to the gradual enlistment of almost 200,000 black men.

Slavery would not become illegal until the Thirteenth Amendment was officially ratified on December 6, 1865. Many Southern states resisted ratification even after the Civil War. Delaware and Kentucky rejected ratification and slavery persisted in those states for several more years before the practice ceased. Mississippi did not officially ratify the amendment until 130 years later, in 1995, and did not formally file the ratification until February 7, 2013.

This Highlight on The Emancipation Proclamation is the first in a year-long series of excerpts from EJI's A History of Racial Injustice — 2013 Calendar. It's part of our newest initiative addressing race and poverty in America.

The history of racial inequality and economic injustice in the United States has created continuing challenges for all Americans and we believe more must be done to advance our collective goal of equal justice for all. Our first calendar focuses on African American history and is part of an EJI series of forthcoming reports and documents that explore the legacy of racial bias in the United States and its continuing impact on contemporary policies and practices.

The printed calendar is just the beginning. An interactive timeline is coming soon, with expanded content about each historical event on the calendar to allow you to further explore the history of racial injustice.

Visit us each month for a new Highlight from A History of Racial Injustice.