To the editor:
Leonard Pitts is an excellent writer but a dishonest historian. Commenting on Abraham Lincoln, he asserts, “Of course, Lincoln freed no slaves. That’s the myth.” While it is true that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free slaves in Union states or in Confederate states already occupied by the Union armies, it did immediately free slaves who had escaped to the Union side.
Furthermore, and this is important, it was a declaration of intent, a concrete first step toward the abolition of slavery. It is doubtful that anyone at the time misunderstood the ultimate goal of the Emancipation Proclamation. Certainly Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized its importance in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial when he said, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.”
With the advance of the Union armies into the Confederacy, slaves were freed by authority of the Emancipation Proclamation that had been issued by the commander in chief, Abraham Lincoln. Furthermore, the constitutional end of slavery came with the passage of the 13th Amendment, which Lincoln had made part of the Republican Party platform in 1864 and which was passed by Congress at his urging. To say that Abraham Lincoln freed no slaves is a historical lie and does a grave injustice not only to Lincoln but to our history.