On that day in 1865, then-President Abraham Lincoln inked a Congressional resolution proposing the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, outlawing slavery.
Abraham Lincoln, a Republican and an avowed advocate for the abolition of slavery, won the 1860 presidential election. Lincoln's election became an unambiguous signal to the South, where slavery was rampant at the time.
Congress was presented with an ultimatum: sanction slavery on the territory of all states, as well as on new, undeveloped lands, or face the withdrawal of the southerners from the Federation. Congress rejected the ultimatum, as a result of which 11 southern states made good on their threat. Following the creation of the Confederacy, the South adopted its own constitution and elected own president, Jefferson Davis. In the winter of 1861, the Civil War began.
On January 1, 1863, at the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, urging the Union Army to free all the slaves who were still the property of landowners. To give the Proclamation constitutional force, in 1863 the Republican Party proposed a corresponding amendment to the US Constitution.
The House of Representatives, dominated by the Democrats, passed the amendment by a two-thirds vote only on January 31, 1865. By December 1865, the document was approved by three quarters of the states. On December 18, 1865 the 13th Amendment came into effect. Slavery in the United States was abolished forever.
Richard Robert Wright, a political activist and former slave, played a crucial role in creating the observance of National Freedom Day.
The first commemoration of this day took place on February 1, 1942, although it was not yet made into law. The ceremony took place in Independence Hall, the building on Independence Square in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed.
On June 30, 1948, President Harry Truman signed a bill to proclaim February 1 the first official National Freedom Day in the United States.
National Freedom Day is an observance, but it is not a public holiday in the United States. Wreath-laying at the Liberty Bell, which symbolizes freedom, has occurred on this day over the years.