Why Is Emancipation Proclamation Important to African American History?

The Emancipation Proclamation was a significant moment in American history and particularly important for African Americans. Issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, the proclamation declared that all slaves in Confederate-held territory were to be freed.


Before the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery was legal in many parts of the United States. The practice had been deeply ingrained in American society since the early colonial period. However, by the mid-19th century, attitudes towards slavery had begun to shift.

The Civil War erupted in 1861, pitting the Union (also known as the North) against the Confederacy (the South). The two sides were divided on many issues, including slavery. The North believed it should be abolished while the South wanted to keep it.

Impact on African Americans

The Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free all enslaved people in America. It only applied to those held in Confederate territory, not those in Union-held areas or states that had remained loyal to the Union. Nevertheless, it was a significant step towards ending slavery and paved the way for further action.

For African Americans at the time, the Emancipation Proclamation represented a glimmer of hope and a long-awaited victory. They saw it as a sign that their struggle for freedom and equality was being recognized by those in power.

Legacy of Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation helped change public opinion about slavery and set a precedent for further action towards equality. It paved the way for the 13th Amendment to be added to the Constitution which abolished slavery entirely throughout America.

Furthermore, it inspired many African Americans to join the Union Army and fight for their own freedom during what became known as “the Second American Revolution”. This military service proved critical to securing victories that would eventually end with the Confederacy’s defeat.


The Emancipation Proclamation was a turning point in American history. It marked a significant step towards ending slavery and helped to pave the way for further progress towards equality.

For African Americans, it was a long-awaited victory and a symbol of hope for a better future. Today, it is remembered as one of the most important documents in American history and a milestone in the fight for civil rights.