The Emancipation Proclamation
"...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 ..." A. Lincoln
With a stroke of a pen, President Abraham Lincoln changed
the Civil War from a war to preserve the Union to a war to
end slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in
Arkansas and all states in rebellion against the United
Joyful Celebrations in Helena
The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1,
1863. That New Year's Eve, freedom seekers in Helena
celebrated into the early morning hours. The men, women
and children who fled farms and plantations to follow the
Union army to Helena were free!
Escaping to Helena and Freedom
The Emancipation Proclamation freed millions of enslaved
people, but claiming that freedom was another matter for
most. Former slaves in Arkansas outside of Helena could
not exercise the freedom Lincoln granted unless they
escaped Confederate control. Many chose to do just that. In
the first months of 1863, hundreds of individuals came into
Helena. Some remained, but many fled to the North.
The Thirteenth Amendment
The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the states
still in rebellion, but it did not free all slaves. For political
reasons, certain areas were exempt. It was not until
December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment became
that slavery was abolished in the United States.
The long wished for Year of Jubilee has
now come for the Negroes, and their joy
is great thereat."
Dr. Charles Brackett, 9th Illinois Cavalry,
describing celebrations in Helena on the eve of
the Emancipation Proclamation becoming law.
Right: This print, titled Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, was created in 1864.
Left: A keepsake card commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation.