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Look at the Evidence

Many people think that the Emancipation Proclamation freed all the enslaved people in the United States. Is that what it actually did? Read it and see.

Research and Read
In September of 1862, the Union army won a major battle, defeating Confederate forces at Antietam in Maryland. Five days later President Lincoln first discussed freeing enslaved peoples in the Confederate states. On January 1, 1863 Lincoln issued an order that has come to be called the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Proclamation allowed Americans who had been enslaved to serve in the Army and Navy. About 200,000 African Americans eventually did so. Lincoln's Proclamation also made a statement about slavery, but not the one you might expect.

To see exactly what the President's order said, you need to read the document itself. There are three sources where you are likely to find it:

  • Encyclopedias: Look up "Emancipation Proclamation."
  • Source books: A source book contains the original texts of many documents. A useful source book for American history is A Documentary History of the United States by Richard D. Heffner. Many libraries have this book.
  • The Internet: Use a search engine, such as Yahooligans! ( Enter "Emancipation Proclamation" in the search box. You can also check out the National Archives and Records Administration: The Emancipation Proclamation (

Find the Evidence
Read the second paragraph of the Proclamation, which begins, "That on the first day of January . . ." Then answer the following questions.

Primary Source Tip
The second paragraph of the Proclamation may be hard for you to understand. There are some big words, and the whole paragraph is one long sentence. The sentence has two main parts, which are separated by a semicolon (;). Read each part separately, and look up any words you don't know in a dictionary.

1. The Proclamation only applied to enslaved people in certain states. Which ones were they?

2. This part of the Proclamation also issued an order to the Union Army and Navy. What was that order?

3. Why might the Emancipation Proclamation have encouraged many enslaved people to escape to freedom?

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