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076 What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?

76. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
• Freed the slaves
• Freed slaves in the Confederacy
• Freed slaves in the Confederate states
• Freed slaves in most Southern states

In 1860, there were approximately four million slaves (or people who are owned and have to work without being paid) in the United States. By 1865, there were no slaves because they had all been given freedom. Their freedom came from President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation (or public announcement) emancipated (or gave freedom to) all slaves in the United States. The Emancipation Proclamation, which was made in 1863, made slavery illegal or not legal. This was a very risky decision, which means that it was a decision that could have caused a lot of trouble for Abraham Lincoln. The country was being torn in two (or strongly divided) between the northern states where slavery was illegal and the southern states where there were still many slaves.

Abolitionists (or people who wanted slavery to end) had been asking Abraham Lincoln to make slavery illegal for a long time. But he had to act cautiously (or
slowly and very carefully). He knew that the political decision would be very risky. In fact, he did not make the Emancipation Proclamation until the Civil War (or the war between America’s northern and southern states) had already started.

The Emancipation Proclamation made slavery illegal in the Union (or the northern states), but the Confederacy (or southern states) was no longer listening to the President of the United States at that time. Slavery didn’t become illegal in those southern states until they became part of the United States again after the northern states won the Civil War. Some of the southern states made slavery illegal right away, but others did it gradually (or a little bit at a time). Two states, Delaware and Kentucky, did not emancipate their slaves until 1865.

When the Emancipation Proclamation was read aloud, many slaves wept (or cried) with happiness. They were happy to have their freedom and to know that their children would be free. However, it would be many years before they would begin to be treated equally (or in the same way) as white Americans. Even today there is still discrimination (or unfair treatment) against some African Americans or black Americans.


proclamation – a public announcement; an official announcement said to many people
* The king made a proclamation that everyone should give one-half of their wealth to him.

to emancipate – to give freedom to someone; to do something so that someone is no longer a slave
* Some African Americans didn't know what to do after they were emancipated because they had always been slaves.

risky – with many dangers; with a possibility for failure; dangerous
* Opening your own business is risky because you might lose all of your money.

torn in two – strongly divided; broken into two parts
* When Hans asked her to marry him and move away, she was torn in two by her love for him and her desire to stay where she was.

abolitionist – a person who wanted slavery to end; a person who worked to change the laws to make slavery illegal (against the law)
* John Brown was a white abolitionist who tried to get black slaves in Virginia to fight for their freedom.

cautiously – slowly and very carefully
* Sheila walked cautiously in the dark because she didn't want to fall down.

gradually – a little bit at a time; happening or changing slowly
* The doctor said that it is best to lose weight gradually, no more than two pounds per week.

to weep – to cry
* The movie was so sad and beautiful that it made me weep.

discrimination – unfair treatment, usually because of a person's age, race (skin color), gender (sex), or religion
* In the United States, many older people say that they cannot get good jobs because of age discrimination.