noun U.S. History.
the proclamation issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, freeing the slaves in those territories still in rebellion against the Union.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
In itself, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves, because it applied only to rebellious areas that the federal government did not then control. It did not affect the four slave states that stayed in the Union: Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. Yet when people say that Lincoln “freed the slaves,” they are referring to the Emancipation Proclamation.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.