Am I Free? 1863
On January 1, 1863, as the nation entered its third year of civil war, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also exempted many parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Union control. Most importantly, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory. The Emancipation Proclamation officially declared the Civil War a war for freedom but left many slaves uncertain of their status in its immediate aftermath.