Civil War Image Gallery African American Civil War Museum founder and Executive Director Dr. Frank Smith Jr. (left) and Kevin Douglass-Green, great-great-grandson of Fredrick Douglass, position an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. See more pictures of the Civil War. Here's a question for your nВext trivia game: How many slaves did the Emancipation Proclamation free? Answer: zero. Well, the history books may have been stretching the truth. An important fact to know about Lincoln is that he was a savvy politician. The Emancipation Proclamation was a document that officially changed nothing -- Congress had already passed laws outlawing slavery in the rebel states, which was the only territory Lincoln covered in the Proclamation.
This amendment would remain weak until the 1960s, when it became the basis for the Civil Rights movement. The 15th Amendment (1870) prohibited discrimination of the right to vote based on race. In response, much of the South passed Black Codes (and later Jim Crow laws), which instituted poll taxes and literacy tests, excluding many former slaves. After Lincoln's assassination came Andrew Johnson's administration and the rise of Radical Republicans, who wanted to punish the defeated South. Congress didn't trust Johnson -- or his promotion of Lincoln's lenient policy of welcoming the South back into the Union. The horrible conditions in the contraband camps prompted the creation of societies and groups that provided clothing, medicine and financial aid to the newly freed. One of the bureau's tasks was enforcing the division of plantations.
While Lincoln sometimes gets a bad rap for overstepping his power with this document, the Emancipation Proclamation was his attempt at staying within his legal bounds as president. The Supreme Court was heavy with Southern sympathizers -- it was the same court that made the Dred Scott ruling (see How the Underground Railroad Worked) -- so Lincoln knew that if there was any sort of legal loophole that the court could use to challenge the Proclamation, slavery would be saved. Lincoln used his authority as the commander in chief to end slavery as a leverage against the rebelling states. This made it a "necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion" to preserve the Union. Instead of appealing to people's hearts, which were not universally in favor of freeing slaves, Lincoln skirted the Supreme Court's jurisdiction by claiming that slavery's end was a military tactic. Although the border states -- Missouri, Delaware, Kentucky and Maryland -- were excluded from the Proclamation, slaves in those states would usually just cross the border to freedom if the state didn't abolish slavery on its own (see sidebar). So why didn't Lincoln include them? Lincoln may have wanted to completely abolish slavery, but he knew he couldn't accomplish his main objective of preserving the Union if he continued to bleed states and popular support.
Some slaves did threaten and kill former masters, but it was rare. On some plantations, slaves numbered in the hundreds and simply overtook the plantation and ran off the owners. Rather than rising up against their former masters, many of the freed slaves attempted to join the Army. Others headed to the cities -- as far away from the plantations as they could get -- to reconnect with family. ВThere were some slaves who didn't learn of their freedom immediately. For instance, those in Key West, Fla., had heard about the Emancipation Proclamation, but didn't learn that it had gone into effect until mid-January 1863. And news of the Emancipation Proclamation didn't reach parts of Texas until as late as June 1865 -- after Lee had surrendered.
stop zombie debt collectors