Today marks the most momentous day in all of American history, regarding the promotion of human rights! It is the 150th anniversary of the issuance by President Abraham Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation!
Lincoln had issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, five days after the bloody Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in the Civil War. His entire cabinet was opposed to what he did, and had doubts about the final issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation 100 days later.
But Abraham Lincoln had the guts, the courage, the conviction that ending slavery was an essential part of the advancement of American democracy, and would help promote the victory of the Union forces over the Confederacy.
Lincoln knew that the Emancipation Proclamation was only a pledge to end slavery, and that the only true way to bring it about was military victory, and the passage two years later of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, an event excellently portrayed in the movie LINCOLN, with Daniel Day-Lewis portraying the events leading to the passage of that amendment by the House of Representatives.
Slavery’s end did not mean an easy time or adjustment for African Americans or the nation, as racial violence and discrimination would be a sad part of the future, but it was a necessary step forward on the march of human rights, including later passage of the 14th Amendment, the 15th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, the 26th Amendment, the various Civil Rights Acts (1866, 1875, 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1968), and significant Supreme Court decisions on civil rights of women, minorities, labor, young people, and gays and lesbians.
The march of time has been toward the granting of greater human rights, but it all began with Lincoln’s courageous gamble, 150 years ago today, and for that, as so much else, all Americans should salute him today!
And it is inspiring to see massive lines at the National Archives in Washington, DC, as the Emancipation Proclamation is on view for a limited time to celebrate the event, but with the need to preserve a document which is in fragile condition after a century and a half of existence.
What Lincoln did in 1863 is connected to the whole long range story of American history, the expansion of human rights for all, and this is what draws foreigners to wish to come to America, the land of liberty and opportunity!