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5 things you may not know about

Lincoln, slavery and emancipation


By History.com, adapted by Newsela staff on 12.14.17
Word Count 700
Level 610L

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) by photographer Alexander Gardner in 1865. Photo from the public domain.

The first Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862. It was
written by President Abraham Lincoln. The proclamation freed Southern slaves.

Emancipation is the act of freeing someone. A proclamation is an announcement.

In 1862, the nation was in the middle of the Civil War. The Northern states of the
Union were on one side. The Southern states of the Confederacy were on the
other.

Slavery still existed across the South. Blacks were owned like property. They
worked for no pay. They could be bought and sold.

Lincoln freed the slaves. But, his views on slavery may surprise you.

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Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist.

Lincoln believed slavery was wrong. For him there was one big problem, though.
Slavery was allowed under the Constitution.

The Constitution was the highest law in the land. That made it hard to know what
to do. Change would have to be slow, Lincoln felt.

Many other people against slavery were abolitionists. They believed slavery
should be abolished right away. Then blacks should be given the same rights as
whites.

Lincoln worked with the abolitionists. He was not one himself, though. Lincoln
wanted to end slavery. But, he was careful to not upset different parts of the
country. He wanted to end slavery but not force rules on some states that had
slavery. Lincoln was more concerned about keeping the Union together.

Lincoln didn’t believe blacks should have the same rights as whites.

Lincoln did not think blacks should have the same rights as whites. For example,
he did not think they should be able to vote. He also did not believe they should
be allowed to serve in government.

What Lincoln did believe was that blacks had the right to be free. He also believed
they should be paid for their work.

Lincoln’s views did change, though. After the war, he said that educated blacks
and blacks who had fought for the Union should be allowed to vote.

Lincoln thought colonization could resolve the issue of slavery.

Lincoln believed colonization was the best way to solve the problem of slavery.
Colonization was the idea that American blacks should have the choice to move to
Africa. Or maybe to Haiti or Panama.

Lincoln felt blacks and whites were just too different. They would never be able to
live together happily, he said. It would be better for both races to be separated.

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These ideas angered some black leaders and abolitionists. Both said blacks were
just as American as whites. They shouldn't have to leave and they deserved the
same rights. But, some people thought colonization was a way for blacks to
escape racism in the U.S.

In time, Lincoln stopped pushing for colonization. It seemed to be too difficult.

Emancipation was a military policy.

Lincoln hated slavery. Yet, he didn’t see the Civil War as a fight to free the nation’s
slaves. The important thing for him was to stop the country from splitting apart.

Lincoln soon realized that emancipation could help the North, though.

By 1862 thousands of Southern slaves had escaped to the North. If Lincoln ended
slavery, more slaves would leave the South. That would weaken the Confederacy.
It would also provide the Union with many new troops if former slaves joined their
army.

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation for these reasons. It was a way to
help the North win the war.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually free all of the slaves.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t cover every state. It didn't apply to states
like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri. Those states had slaves, but
were on the Union side.

The proclamation also didn't apply everywhere in the Confederacy. It didn't cover
parts already taken over by the Union. Lincoln hoped this would win over whites
in those states.

Indeed, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave right away. It
only covered the Southern states fighting against the Union. Those states paid no
attention to the proclamation.

Still, Lincoln’s proclamation was very important. It marked a turning point in the
Civil War.

By the end of the war, 200,000 black men had fought on the Union side. They
helped the North win. Their courage and Lincoln's proclamation led to slavery's
end.

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