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Interpreting the Evidence

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation 1862

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Civil War and Reconstruction (1850 - 1877)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Civil War

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Glass Lantern Slides of the 1862 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load Glass Lantern Slides of the 1862 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
The Emanciption Proclamation, Pages 3 and 4. From original draft written in 1863.
Historical Context
The Emancipation Proclamation and the subsequent Thirteenth Amendment were made possible by President Lincoln, the Federal Army, and the slaves themselves. President Lincoln first proposed the Presidential Decree in 1862, but was advised to wait until after a military victory. His opportunity came following the Battle of Antietam - not a pure victory, but a stopped invasion. The Presidential Decree was announced on September 22, 1862, and was to take effect on January 1, 1863.

Immediately following the announcement, the inept Union General Burnside decided to sack Fredericksburg, Virginia. This proved to be a major folly and was a complete disaster. This failure increased pressure from both Southerners and Northerners on President Lincoln to cancel his Emancipation Proclamation before the January 1 start date.  In cities like Boston, large-scale vigils lasted all night on New Year's Eve, 1862, with whites and African Americans praying for President Lincoln to support his decree.

President Lincoln did support his Emancipation Proclamation, and on January 1, 1863, slavery in America was abolished. The freedmen, as they were now called, left the plantations. They reinforced the decree by refusing to continue to work on the plantations, even for money, or to live in slave quarters. They wanted, they said, what every man deserved: land and opportunity. Lincoln had always believed that all men should be free, and he ensured that they would be.

Essential Question
How does war impact a society?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea of this document and evaluate the impact of this document on American society.
Historical Challenges
The Thirteenth Amendment forbade involuntary servitude in the U.S. The Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments secured voting rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 enforced societal equality. Research the leaders of these movements for justice. Could Abraham Lincoln have inspired them all? What similarities between the leaders can you find? What makes a leader?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: How are old documents preserved? Check out the National Archives for information.
English Language Arts: Write a newspaper article describing the events leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation and describe the impact on society. Date your article the day after the Proclamation became official.