ST. LOUIS — In addition to being the first day of Black History Month, Wednesday, Feb. 1 is National Freedom Day. On that day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery in the country.
Prior to the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, the brutal enslavement of Black people in the U.S. lasted for centuries.
Although Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared “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” in 1863, the law only applied to areas of the Confederacy in a state of rebellion, not slave-holding states that hadn't left the union. It wasn’t until the end of the Civil War and the amendment’s passage that slavery was abolished nationwide, according to the National Archives.
The Thirteenth Amendment states, “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United State, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Along with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, it is part of the constitutional amendment trio that expanded the civil rights of Americans.
In 1948, President Harry Truman proclaimed Feb. 1 as National Freedom Day in honor of the amendment that outlawed slavery, according to the American Presidency Project.
The holiday proclamation asks Americans to pause on the first day of February in "solemn contemplation of the glorious blessings of freedom which we humbly and thankfully enjoy."
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