CONTACT: Amanda Green Hawkins, (412) 562-2398
This statement was released today by United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and USW International Vice President Fred Redmond:
(Pittsburgh) -- Issued almost two years into the Civil War on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation authorized the Union army to recruit black soldiers and it declared that all slaves in the rebel states of the Confederacy “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
The Proclamation did not apply to slaves in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, the border slave states that remained within the Union and were not in rebellion. Full emancipation would come almost three years later after separate state actions and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery illegal everywhere in the United States.
Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and leader of the abolitionist movement, repeatedly called for the liberation and arming of slaves, insisting from the outset, “The Negro is the key of the situation – the pivot upon which the whole rebellion turns.”
Following the issuance of the Proclamation, Douglass and others began in earnest to recruit African Americans to be Union soldiers to stand alongside Union troops. They ultimately helped to weaken the Confederate rebellion.
Their courage in battle and contributions to the Union's ultimate victory greatly influenced the nation to adopt the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865.
The USW honors these soldiers and their fight for freedom as we celebrate Black History Month in 2013.
The USW represents about 850,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean in a variety of industries, from glassmaking to mining, paper, steel, tire and rubber to the public sector, service and health care.
# # #