News / USA

    Order to Free Slaves 'Beginning of America Really Becoming America'

    Mariama Diallo
    It was 150 years ago that Union and Confederate troops squared off at Antietam Creek, Maryland, - a major Civil War victory for the Union that some historians say changed the course of American history.  That's because five days later President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which eventually brought an end to slavery in the United States. Hundreds gathered to reflect on the nation's past at a remembrance observance at the Washington memorial that bears the 16th president’s name.

    It was a day of remembrance for those gathered at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate 150 years since the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

    Congressman John Lewis, the son of farmers and whose ancestors were slaves, is a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. For him, this anniversary has significance beyond words.
     
    "It tends to dramatize that as of 150 years that a son or grandson or a great grandson of a slave can grow up and be honored by presidents of the U.S., including an African-American president, and [be] serving in Congress. It says something about the distance we've come and a progress we've made as a people," Lewis said.

    Ed Ayers, a history professor at the University of Richmond, says the best way to explain the history of slavery and the U.S. Civil War is to get everyone in the story.

    "The fact is that it took everybody to make this happen. If you don't have a leader such as Lincoln who's willing to take all these chances, it doesn't happen. If you don't have an army to carry it through, it doesn't happen. If you don't have the enslaved people showing or longing their desperation and determination, it doesn't happen," Ayers said.

    "We have a live audience today from schools, colleges and universities," Ayers said.

    Ayers spoke in a discussion streamed live to students around the country, like those gathered at George Mason University near Washington.

    Student Brittany Passmore soaked up the lessons of the day.

    "So when they talk about Abraham Lincoln using it as a political move, it's interesting to compare it to the political moves today in respect to the elections that are coming up," Passmore said.

    Hollywood actress Alfre Woodard read from a slave woman's memoir written in 1861.

    "Slavery is terrible for men but it's far more terrible for women, all you happy free women," Woodard read.

    For Woodard, the Emancipation Proclamation is not just a document: "It is the beginning of America really becoming America. So that's a big celebration that belongs to all of us."

    That lesson was not lost on the students attending the ceremony..

    "To have the opportunity to understand the full impact it has had on the entire nation and not just slaves makes it more of a formidable piece of history,” said student Sean Smith.

    The proclamation originally freed only the slaves in rebel states during the Civil War.

    But many historians say Lincoln's original hand-written document, which rests in the National Archives, was the first step in a long process of expanding civil rights to all Americans.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.