C’est Vrai: Not all slaves freed by Lincoln


March 20, 2008


I was always taught that when Abraham Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, he freed all slaves in the South.


That’s not exactly right. For example, it did not include the ones in St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.


Former St. Martinville Mayor Eric Martin brought that to my attention, and he’s trying to find someone who can explain why that was. He’ll have to look beyond me. I have no idea.


"In all the years we have done research for the Acadian Memorial and the African-American museums, no one could clearly answer this question," he wrote. "In the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln declared the slaves free throughout the U.S. except in six parishes (including St. Martin), the city of New Orleans and a city in Virginia. I can’t recall the name of the city in Virginia."


I looked up the text. It frees slaves in "Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Morthhampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued."


Martin said, "The best answer I heard was that these parishes and cities committed to President Lincoln to fight secession from the Union. In return, these specific areas were allowed keep their slaves and transition into a society without slavery over a period of time."


Anybody have a better answer?


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