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

from Abraham Lincoln – The Emancipation Proclamation on Rap Genius


Lincoln NEVER said that he would free all the slaves, just slaves living in states in rebellion (red). That means that slaves in Confederate territory already controlled by the Union Army were not freed.

The Border States (yellow) also held slaves, but remained a part of the Union when the rest of the South seceded. To stay in their good graces, President Lincoln could not free slaves in these states.


President Lincoln’s top priority throughout the Civil War was not to free slaves, but to preserve the Union. We’re glad he eventually got to it, though!

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