Word of emancipation spreads in the South

President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation put an end to slavery in the United States on January 1, 1863. Word of emancipation spread slowly among slaves in the South, however. Mail delivery, telegraph lines, and other forms of communication were disrupted during the war. In addition, many Southern whites attempted to prevent the information from getting around. They worried that slaves would rebel and become violent upon hearing the news. But most slaves eventually learned of their freedom. Free blacks within the Union passed word to others in the South. Some slaves were able to read about the Proclamation in Southern newspapers, and others were simply informed by their masters.

Free blacks in both the North and South celebrated the end of slavery and looked forward to the time when they would be treated equally in American society. Most slaves were thrilled to learn that they were free, although some recognized that freedom brought uncertainty and new responsibilities. Since many slaves had not received basic education and were not trained in any special skills, they were concerned about how they would make a living and take care of their families.

Educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) remembered first hearing about the Emancipation Proclamation with other slaves in Virginia: "For some minutes there was great rejoicing, and thanksgiving, and wild scenes of ecstasy. But there was no feeling of bitterness. In fact, there was pity among the slaves for our former owners. The wild rejoicing on the part of the emancipated colored people lasted but for a brief period, for I noticed that by the time they returned to their cabins there was a change in their feelings. The great responsibility of being free, of having charge of themselves, of having to think and plan for themselves and their children, seemed to take possession of them."

As slaves in the South heard about the Emancipation Proclamation, they began to recognize what the Civil War meant for their future. If the

119 Year Old Former Slave Nannie Whatley

Booker T. Washington was six years old when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

(Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Booker T. Washington was six years old when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

(Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

North won, slavery would be abolished throughout the land. As a result, some slaves began to rebel against their masters and to help the Union cause. Some simply refused to work, while others started fires to destroy property belonging to whites. In addition to fighting the North, Southern whites increasingly had to worry about fighting slave uprisings.

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