While Hollywood may be expressing renewed interest in all things slavery (“Django: Unchained” and “Lincoln” are in theaters now and “12 Years A Slave” will be in theaters later this year) President Barack Obama took a moment to acknowledge the anniversary of the emancipation of African-Americans from bondage.
150 years ago today on January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming that all slaves in the Confederacy were “forever free” as a punishment to the rebels in the Southern states. Unfortunately, many slaves in the South didn’t get word of their freedom until more than two years later on June 19th 1865.
Nevertheless, the Emancipation Proclamation remains a milestone in American History and our Commander-In-Chief has issued his own proclamation commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation.
On December 31, 1862, our Nation marked the end of another year of civil war.At Shiloh and Seven Pines, Harpers Ferry and Antietam, brother had fought against brother.Sister had fought against sister. Blood and bitterness had deepened the divide that separated North from South, eroding the bonds of affection that once united 34 States under a single flag. Slavery still suspended the possibility of an America where life and liberty were the birthright of all, not the province of some.
Yet, even in those dark days, light persisted. Hope endured. As the weariness of an old year gave way to the promise of a new one, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation — courageously declaring that on January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves” in rebellious areas “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” He opened the Union Army and Navy to African Americans, giving new strength to liberty’s cause. And with that document, President Lincoln lent new moral force to the war by making it a fight not just to preserve, but also to empower. He sought to reunite our people not only in government, but also in freedom that knew no bounds of color or creed. Every battle became a battle for liberty itself. Every struggle became a struggle for equality.
On a related note, today also marks the 208th year of Independence for Haiti. After Haitian slaves revolted in 1791 Napoleon Bonaparte‘s colonial forces were defeated in November of 1803. Two months later Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaimed the independence of Saint-Domingue, renaming it Haiti after its original Arawak name. Haiti became the second independent nation in the Americas.