Abraham Lincoln standing on left with his right arm raised, his left hand grasping hand of kneeling African American male. Woman holding infant children holding shawl all to left. Black & white image.
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ordering that “that all persons held as slaves [within the rebellious states] are, and henceforward shall be free.” Although the results were not immediate, the Proclamation transformed the character of the Civil War by expanding the domain of freedom. African-American men were accepted into the Union Army and Navy, enabling them to fight for their own liberation. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 African-American soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and in support of their freedom. Almost four million people were freed under the terms of the Proclamation, which is regarded as one of the most important documents in United States history. This print shows an African-American man kissing the hand of President Abraham Lincoln who is standing on broken shackles, symbolic of breaking the chains of slavery. The man’s family watches from behind them.