Issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation declared "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery, it did change the basic character of the Civil War. Instead of waging a war to restore the old Union as it was before 1861, the North was now fighting to create a new Union without slavery. The proclamation also authorized the recruitment of African Americans as Union soldiers. By the end of the Civil War, approximately 180,000 African Americans had served in the Union army and 18,000 in the navy.
Use the navigation menu on the left to access sections of this guide on digital collections, external websites, and a bibliography of books providing more information on the Emancipation Proclamation.