This year marks the 150th anniversary of one of the most well-known and revered documents in U.S. history. At your library you'll find displays and a variety of print and online resources to help you learn more about the Emancipation Proclamation and what was happening in our country 150 years ago. Here's a bit of background:
On Jan. 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery and setting America on a course to become the land of freedom and opportunity for all. The brutal, inhumane practice of slavery began 500 years ago. From the 1500s to the mid-1800s, Europeans shipped more than 12 million slaves from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. As agriculture in America progressed and the need for a labor force to work the fields increased, more Africans were uprooted from their homelands and brought to North America against their will.
Abraham Lincoln detested slavery
and began the fight for a unified, free nation early in his political career. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln is famous for saying. What’s surprising is how early in the struggle he said it. In 1858 when Lincoln was running for the United States Senate the statement was considered shockingly radical.
The politics behind the Emancipation Proclamation are noteworthy. Court cases by individual slave owners were a possibility. This required the Proclamation to apply specifically to areas rebelling against the Union. If military force were necessary to quell rebellion and preserve the Union, slaves could be freed constitutionally. That’s why some states and localities, Norfolk and “Princess Ann” among them, are named explicitly as excluded areas in the Emancipation Proclamation: Tidewater was under Union occupation in 1863 and therefore not officially in rebellion against the United States government.
For More Information
To read more about this tumultuous time in our history and the unprecedented freedoms it gained for all citizens, there are numerous books at your library that tell the story, including: