President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed Southern slaves and made the issue of slavery the central focus of the Civil War, beyond reuniting the war-torn nation. (Photo used under Creative Commons, Flickr/dbking)
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Issued 150 years ago this week, President Abraham Lincoln's initial proclamation to free Southern slaves is enjoying a public showcase to match its increased profile among scholars.
Lincoln released his lesser-known preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862. That was 100 days before the final version. The first of the two documents has gained importance among historians as a turning point in the Civil War. Lincoln made the decision after the battle of Antietam in Maryland, which remains the bloodiest day in American military history.
Edward Ayers is a historian and president of the University of Richmond in Virginia. He says slavery and its abolition were once treated as minor parts of the Civil War, but that began to change after the Civil Rights movement.
The official government copy of the preliminary proclamation goes on display in New York on Saturday, while other commemorations of emancipation kicked off earlier this week.