In September 1862, Congress ratified the Emancipation Proclamation that had been penned by President Abraham Lincoln that would set free the slaves in the ten states that were in rebellion against the United States of America. Slaves in Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri were not emancipated by this proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was set to go into effect at 12:ooam on January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation did not outlaw slavery or bestow citizenship on the freed slaves; it was meant only to eradicate slavery and reunite the Union. Additional goals of Lincoln for the Proclamation included mollifying Britain and France so they would not participate in the Civil War. Slavery was not legally abolished until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865.
During the evening of December 31, 1862, slaves in the affected areas gathered with great anticipation to pray and “keep watch” for the 12:00 hour of January 1, 1863 and the new year. Since then many African-American churches have held “Watchnight Services” to celebrate the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and to bring in the New Year at church.
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