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       "We got free in Fort Valley Georgia on June 15, 1865. I'll never forget that date. What I mean is, that was the day the big freedom came. But we didn't know it and just worked on. Lots of white folks tried to run away and hide their slaves until after the Yankee soldiers had been through town searching for them that had not been set free."

Henry Kirk Miller, Ex-Slave Fort Valley, GA

Migrated to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1873.

           The message of freedom reached Houston County approximately two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. There are several reasons floating out there to explain this 2 ½ year delay; news traveled slower then than now; the messenger carrying the news of freedom was murdered; and still another, that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest.  But, the one that really fits the narrative is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations.

         President Abraham Lincoln has been given the credit of freeing the slaves. But the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves in counties in Southern states controlled by the Confederates. It did not free slaves in Union held territories in Virginia, Maryland and other states. Many would remain enslaved until the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865.


Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

          There were many slaves and slave owners in Union territories who did not fully understand the true meaning of the proclamation. They thought their slaves had been granted freedom, and many slaves rejoiced that they were free, even though they were not. 

          The Emancipation Proclamation was the end to a means. Lincoln saw it as a way to end the war by allowing free slaves to join the Union Army. Free slaves joined the war because they thought if the union won their freedom could not be taken from them.  

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