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Black History Month 2013

At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington

Dr. Carter G. Woodson realized the importance of providing a theme that would focus the attention of the public when he established Negro History week in 1926. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) dedicates the 2013 Annual Black History Theme to celebrating the anniversary of two important African American turning points - the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1963 March on Washington. 

The Emancipation Proclamation, decreed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863, declared slaves in all confederate states then at war with the Union "forever free" and made them eligible for paid military service in the Union Army. Although it did not end slavery in the nation, it did transform the character of the war. After the proclamation was made, every advance of Federal troops expanded the domain of freedom and black men were allowed to serve in the Union Army and Navy. By the end of the war almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for freedom.

Download The Meaning and Making of Emancipation, an e-book commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation featuring documents held in the National Archives.

Ritchie, Alexander Hay. (c1866). [Print: Mezzotint]. The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the cabinet. Retrieved from


    Emancipation Proclamation

    Strobridge & Co. Lith. (c1888). [Chromolithograph]. Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation. Retrieved from


    March on Washington

    The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place on August 28th, 1963 in Washington D.C.  More than 200,000 demonstrators took part in the walk.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his ‘‘I Have a Dream’’ speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, noting that the Emancipation Proclamation gave hope to black slaves. The following year Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a concrete step towards fulfilling the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Leffler, W.K. (1963, August 28). Civil rights march on Wash[ington]. D.C. [Photograph]. Retrieved from                            

    Leffler, W.K. (1963, December 3). Martin Luther King, Jr., head and shoulders portrait, facing right at microphones, after meeting with President Johnson to discuss civil rights, at the White House, 1963. Retrieved from

    Fernandez, Orlando. (1963, August 7). In front of 170 W 130 St., March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, Deputy Director, Cleveland Robinson, Chairman of Administrative Committee. [Photographic Print]. Retrieved from


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