January 1st marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The National Archives in Washington D.C. is hosting a series of events including Watch Night festivities and an opportunity to view the original document.
A tradition began Dec. 31, 1862, as many black churches held Watch Night services, awaiting word that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would take effect amid a bloody Civil War. Later, congregations listened as the president’s historic words were read aloud. (abc6)
Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862 announcing that if rebel states did not cease fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states would be declared free from that date forward. According to NPR,
The document was reproduced widely. “Several publishers published small versions … pocket versions [seen here] of the Emancipation Proclamation to be given to soldiers and officers,” Bunch says. He says the tiny documents were read to slaves.