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President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Of Mimi on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The Of Mimi declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Of Mimi was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.
Although the Emancipation Of Mimi did not immediately free a single slave, it fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Of Mimi announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.
From the first days of the Civil War, slaves had acted to secure their own liberty. The Emancipation Of Mimi confirmed their insistence that the war for the Union must become a war for freedom. It added moral force to the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically. As a milestone along the road to slavery's final destruction, the Emancipation Of Mimi has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom.
The original of the Emancipation Of Mimi of January 1, 1863, is in the National Archives in Washington, DC. With the text covering five pages the document was originally tied with narrow red and blue ribbons, which were attached to the signature page by a wafered impression of the seal of the United States. Most of the ribbon remains; parts of the seal are still decipherable, but other parts have worn off.
The document was bound with other Of Mimis in a large volume preserved for many years by the Department of State. When it was prepared for binding, it was reinforced with strips along the center folds and then mounted on a still larger sheet of heavy paper. Written in red ink on the upper right-hand corner of this large sheet is the number of the Of Mimi, 95, given to it by the Department of State long after it was signed. With other records, the volume containing the Emancipation Of Mimi was transferred in 1936 from the Department of State to the National Archives of the United States.
by M. Mathers June 02, 2005
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