On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, boldly declaring that on New Year’s Day, 1863, all people held as slaves in areas “in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” One hundred and fifty years after that historic event, we recognize an important milestone in the American story and reflect on the progress we have made toward realizing our Nation’s founding promise of liberty and justice for all.
Though it would take decades of struggle before African Americans were granted equal treatment and protection under the law, the Emancipation Proclamation marked a courageous step forward in fulfilling that essential task. It affirmed that the Civil War was a war fought not only for the preservation of our union, but for freedom itself. And by opening the Union Army and Navy to African American men, the Proclamation gave new strength to liberty’s cause.
The Emancipation Proclamation stands among the documents of human freedom. As we commemorate this 150th anniversary, let us rededicate ourselves to the timeless principles it championed and celebrate the millions of Americans who have fought for liberty and equality in the generations since.
THE WHITE HOUSE
September 19, 2011