The Emancipation Proclamation Facts for Kids

  • The Emancipation Proclamation was an order from President Abraham Lincoln that freed slaves.
  • The Southern states affected by the Emancipation Proclamation included Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana.
  • By the end of the war, almost 200,000 African Americans fought for the Union.


The Civil War between North and South began because the North did not want the Southern states to leave. They wanted to preserve the Union. Even though slavery was a major cause of this war, it was not a goal of this war. Keep reading to learn more Emancipation Proclamation facts.

The states that were not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation included Maryland, Missouri, Delaware, and Kentucky. Tennessee was also not included because it already belonged to the Union.

The Battle of Antietam

The Union won the Battle of Antietam. This inspired President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Battle of Antietam was on September 17, 1862. General Robert E. Lee’s army and Union General George McClellan’s army fought in Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The battle was the climax of Lee’s invasion of the north.

As night fell, there were many dead people on the battlefield. One side had much more dead and wounded than the other. 

The fighting was intense and close to the other side. It lasted for 12 hours with muskets and cannons. There were about 23,000 casualties including about 3,650 dead when night fell.

The Battle of Antietam was the deadliest one-day battle in American military history. The Union Army showed that they could stand against the Confederate army. This gave President Lincoln enough confidence to issue a proclamation for slaves to be free.

Charles Goddard was a Union soldier. He participated in this battle. Later, he wrote to his mother saying: “If the horrors of war cannot be seen on this battlefield, they can’t be seen any where.”

On September 22, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln freed all slaves in the rebellious states. That means that all enslaved people in rebellious states were to be freed on January 1, 1863.

The Southern states would not end the rebellion by January 1st, 1863. That is when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln ideas about the proclamation

Lincoln was unsure about his power to free slaves. He saw it was a military order that fell under his power as commander-in-chief and so he did it.

Lincoln also thought about the effect that this proclamation would have on Union war efforts. He was worried about Maryland and Kentucky because they had slaves but hadn’t joined the Confederates.

Lincoln also cared about the opinion of the North. They thought that war to save the Union was good, but not necessarily to free slaves. 

Emancipation meant that instead of fighting to keep the country together, they were going to fight for freedom, and after the war was over, America would be different.

After he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln started thinking more about freeing slaves and then talked more about it. He even risked losing the Election of 1864 because of it. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was mostly about the military, it was a change in Lincoln’s views on slavery. 

Lincoln changed the goals of the war. He did this just a few days after Union’s victory in Antietam. With this Proclamation, he hoped to inspire all blacks, and slaves in the Confederacy, in particular, to support the Union cause.

As he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln said: “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper.”

After the start of January 1, 1863, every time the federal troops advanced, they expanded the area where people could be free. The Proclamation also said that black men could join the Union Army and Navy. With this change, people who were freed had a chance to help others be free too.

Read about Reconstruction Era

Not all the slaves

The Emancipation Proclamation was limited. Lincoln was not freeing all the slaves in the United States. He only freed slaves in the Confederacy.

It meant that only slaves in the states that had seceded from the United States were free. It also said slaves in parts of the Confederacy already controlled by Union troops were free. But it depended on Union military victory for people to be free.

Before the war was over, some of the border states freed their slaves. The Proclamation freed slaves but did not make slavery illegal.

Signing the Proclamation

On the morning of January 1, 1869, the President’s guests arrived at the White House. They were first members of the Cabinet and diplomats from other countries. Then officers from the Army and Navy arrived together in a large group. 

After the guests left, the president went to his study. He signed the proclamation paper in front of a few friends. 

The President did not need to have a ceremony for that. Later, Lincoln told the painter F. B Carpenter that when he picked up the pen to sign the paper it shook so much that he could not write on it.

The president’s proclamation was ready by nightfall. Papers had already seen earlier drafts, but it wasn’t until 8 p.m. on January 1 that the text of the declaration was actually sent over telegraph wires to those papers.

This is the reason why each New Year’s Day, there was a big celebration in some parts of the country. Sometimes there would be a brass band or an African American fire company. Community members would march to the courthouse, church, or high school.

There, they would gather to listen to the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. The speeches varied. Some speakers urged African Americans to insist on equal rights, while others urged them not to be angry at white people.

The Thirteenth Amendment

The Emancipation Proclamation was an order. It was not a law yet. But it made the Thirteenth Amendment possible. 

A Proclamation can be done quickly, but the Thirteenth Amendment had to take a few more years to pass.

The 13th amendment, which ended slavery in America, was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864. The House of Representatives approved it on January 31st, 1865. 

Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress. He gave the amendment to state legislatures by February 1st.

These amendment words are: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Read more about American Amendments

Europe during the war

Britain and France were debating whether they should join the Confederate Army in the Civil War before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Proclamation also prevented Europe from entering this war. It made people who wanted to help the Confederacy want to help slavery as well

As Lincoln hoped, the Proclamation turned foreign popular opinion in favor of the Union. European countries that had outlawed slavery now were in favor of the Union. It also ended the Confederacy’s hope for recognition from European countries.

The Emancipation Proclamation today

The original paper where the Emancipation Proclamation was written is today at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC. They keep it there so people can see it.

First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln.

A New York artist named Francis Bicknell Carpenter believed that President Lincoln’s action of freeing slaves was a good thing. He liked it and he wanted to paint it. He asked Illinois Representative Owen Lovejoy to help him set up his studio at the White House.

Carpenter met Lincoln on February 6, 1864, and the project began. Carpenter lived in the White House for a long time. This is when he wrote about his life in the White House. He wrote this book in 1866.

The painting’s subject is a major historical crisis. It looks like the mood in the painting is still and calm. 

People might not know this because it happened long ago so you have to remind them what it was about. This is major for preserving the Union: Freedom. 

Since the first days of the Civil War, slaves had been fighting for their freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed that the war for the Union was to become a war for freedom too. 

This paper made Union soldiers more motivated and helped them win battles. Slaves started to believe in victory

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and he did not go as far as he wanted. He didn’t do it because he was limited by the law.

The Emancipation Proclamation became a very important document of human rights in the world.


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