A brief look

A few hundred people attended Monday’s annual Community Emancipation Proclamation & Installation of Officers service at New Bethel Baptist Church on Youngstown’s South Side to recognize and honor the accomplishments of the historic document, which President Abraham Lincoln signed Jan. 1, 1863. Some facts about the document:

In July 1862, William H. Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, suggested waiting for a Union victory in the Civil War so the government could prove such a document was enforceable. That victory came Sept. 17, 1862, during the Battle of Antietam, which stopped Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s first Northern invasion.

Several days later, the president signed a preliminary document, which informed the Union and Confederacy of his intention to free slaves in the so-called rebellious states.

The final Emancipation Proclamation declared free slaves who lived in those states that were not under Union control.

The five-page document also provided the freed men with governmental support and assistance, declared they should be paid a wage and made it possible for them to be accepted into the armed services to fight in the war.

The Emancipation Proclamation was limited, however, in that it applied only to the states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery virtually untouched in the border states, such as Missouri. It also exempted portions of the Confederacy already under Northern control.

Nevertheless, the document changed the complexion and focus of the war largely by paving the way for black men to fight for the Union Army and Navy, lending credence to their insistence that the war for the Union also must be a war for freedom, and adding moral force to the Union cause.

Sources: National and Historical Archives

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