During the Civil War enslaved African Americans sought opportunities to gain their freedom wherever they could. On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which stated that emancipation would take effect on January 1, 1863, and end to the institution of slavery in the Confederate states. Even though it did not end slavery throughout the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation transformed the entire purpose of the Civil War. After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War changed from a war to preserve the Union into a war to end slavery. Slavery was abolished throughout the United States with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Following emancipation, African Americans expanded their commemorative traditions in a way that was impossible during slavery. There was no one, official day African Americans celebrated Emancipation Day, however. Localities throughout the South continue to celebrate emancipation at different times in the calendar year, often related to the date when Union troops brought news of the Emancipation Proclamation to the area.