The Emancipation Proclamation turned 150 years old yesterday, and the United States Postal Service has issued a new stamp for folks to commemorate the landmark document issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863.
With the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln proclaimed in the midst of the Civil War that all slaves held in Confederate states would be “forever free” once the army had taken control. The Emancipation Proclamation is often credited as the document which freed the slaves. It didn’t exactly do that, as it only applied to ten Confederate states, and neither outlawed slavery nor made newly freedman citizens. And yet, the Emancipation Proclamation holds tremendous symbolic value as a document which changed the character of the war.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, quoting historian Eric Foner, notes the significance of the proclmation: >
Nonetheless, the proclamation marked a dramatic transformation in the nature of the Civil War and in Lincoln’s own approach to the problem of slavery. No longer did he seek the consent of slave holders. The proclamation was immediate, not gradual, contained no mention of compensation for owners, and made no reference to colonization.
In it, Lincoln addressed blacks directly, not as property subject to the will of others but as men and women whose loyalty the Union must earn. For the first time, he welcomed black soldiers into the Union Army; over the next two years some 200,000 black men would serve in the Army and Navy, playing a critical role in achieving Union victory. And Lincoln urged freed slaves to go to work for “reasonable wages” — in the United States. He never again mentioned colonization in public.
The new stamp was designed by New York designer Gail Anderson. Anderson, known for her design work for Broadway play posters and in journalism, commissioned the Nashville-based print shop Hatch Show Print to produce the stamp with the goal of evoking the feel of Civil War-era posters. The 2013 stamp comes 50 years after the USPS released its first stamp in 1963 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The 1963 stamp, designed by George Olden, also happens to be the first USPS stamp by an African-American designer.