by Jeremy Leaming
In Sept. 1862, only days after Union forces quelled a Confederate invasion of Maryland, President Abraham Lincoln told his cabinet he was ready to issue a decree freeing slaves in the Confederacy. On Sept. 22, 1862 Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, giving the Confederate states until January 1 to end their rebellion or slaves in the South “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Saturday, Sept. 22 marks the 150th anniversary of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that, as historian Eric Foner noted in his book The Fiery Trial, Fredrick Douglass lauded as “the most important document ever issued by an American president.”
Foner’s The Fiery Trial notes that Lincoln was, at the time of announcing the proclamation, still seriously considering asylum for freed women and men, believing that colonization could occur somewhere in West Africa or Central America.
Nonetheless the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is seen as a “key moment in the process that led to the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment” outlawing slavery, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) states.
Earlier this week at an event celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation hosted by the NEH and Howard University, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a Civil Rights hero, provided a keynote that touched upon the changes he has seen in his life and included a call for continued work toward equality.
“Slavery was an affront to human dignity,” he said, as reported by Teria Rogers for Afro. “It was an evil, ungodly, dehumanizing system. It did not matter that it lasted over 300 years, it was bound to fail. It could never last because it violated one eternal truth. We’re one people, one family, the American family. We live in the same house, the American house, the world house.”
Lewis, among the young women and men who traveled on buses throughout the Deep South subverting Jim Crow laws and being met with brutal violence, added that the march for equality must never be abandoned.