What key changes did emancipation make in the political and economic status of African Americans?
- 4 years agoFavorite Answer
Immediate historical impact
Despite the limited immediate effect on the slaves, the proclamation represented a shift in the war objectives of the North—merely reuniting the nation would no longer become the sole outcome. It represented a major step toward the ultimate abolition of slavery in the United States and the formation of a "more perfect Union."
However, there were a limited number of slaves who were freed immediately by the proclamation. Runaway slaves who made it to Union lines had been held by the Union army as "contraband of war" in contraband camps; when the proclamation took effect they were told at midnight that they were free to leave. Also, the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia had been occupied by the Union navy earlier in the war. The whites had fled to the mainland while the blacks stayed, largely running their own lives. Naval officers read the proclamation to them and told them they were free.
In the military, the reaction to this proclamation varied widely, with some units coming to near mutiny in protest, and desertions were reported because of it. On the other hand, other units were inspired with the adoption of a cause that seemed to them to ennoble their efforts, such that at least one unit took up the motto "For Union and Liberty".
Slaves were part of the "engine of war" for the Confederacy. They produced and prepared food; sewed uniforms; repaired railways; worked on farms and in factories, shipping yards, and mines; built fortifications; and served as hospital workers and common laborers. To encourage discontent among slaves in the Confederacy, a million copies of the Emancipation Proclamation were distributed in the Union-occupied South and, as hoped, news of it spread rapidly by word of mouth, arousing hopes of freedom, creating general confusion, and encouraging many to escape.
Abroad, as Lincoln hoped, the Proclamation turned foreign popular opinion in favor of the Union for its new commitment to end slavery. That shift ended any hope the Confederacy might have had of gaining official recognition, particularly with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. As Henry Adams noted, "The Emancipation Proclamation has done more for us than all our former victories and all our diplomacy."
Near the end of the war, Republican abolitionists were concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation would be construed solely as a war act and thus unconstitutional once fighting ended. They were also increasingly anxious to secure the freedom of all slaves, not just those freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Thus pressed, Lincoln staked a large part of his 1864 presidential campaign on a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery uniformly throughout the United States. Lincoln's campaign was bolstered by separate votes in both Maryland and Missouri to abolish slavery in those states. Maryland's new constitution abolishing slavery took effect November 1, 1864. Winning re-election, Lincoln pressed the lame-duck 38th Congress to pass the proposed amendment immediately rather than wait for the incoming 39th Congress to convene. On January 31, 1865, Congress sent to the state legislatures for ratification what became the 13th Amendment, banning slavery in all U.S. states and territories. The amendment was ratified by the legislatures of enough states by December 6, 1865. As a practical matter, by the time that the amendment was ratified, Kentucky was the only remaining state in the nation where there were still significant numbers of slaves who had not already been freed by other means.
- staisilLv 74 years ago
African Americans struggled to create a new economic and political environment for themselves during Reconstruction. This period represented a brief opportunity. Blacks served in local, state, and national politics, and formed the core of the Republican Party in the South. Economically, blacks struggled to provide for their own families. They resisted gang labor, desired by white landowners, preferring to be sharecroppers or tenants if they could not own land outright. However, the failure of the government to distribute land to the former slaves limited their economic opportunities.