Freedom Week

The Declaration of Independence

On April 12, 1776, the legislature of North Carolina authorized its delegates to the Continental Congress to join with others in a declaration of separation from Great Britain; the first colony to instruct its delegates to take the actual initiative was Virginia on May 15. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia offered a resolution to the Congress to the effect “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States. . . .” A committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman was organized to “prepare a declaration to the effect of the said first resolution.” The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. Most delegates signed the Declaration August 2, but George Wythe (Va.) signed August 27; Richard Henry Lee (Va.), Elbridge Gerry (Mass.), and Oliver Wolcott (Conn.) in September; Matthew Thornton (N.H.), not a delegate until September, in November; and Thomas McKean (Del.), although present on July 4, not until 1781 by special permission, having served in the army in the interim.

Read more: The Declaration of Independence —

U.S. Bill of Rights

On September 25, 1789, Congress transmitted to the state Legislatures twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution. Numbers three through twelve were adopted by the states to become the United States (U.S.) Bill of Rights, effective December 15, 1791.

James Madison proposed the U.S. Bill of Rights. It largely responded to the Constitution's influential opponents, including prominent Founding Fathers, who argued that the Constitution should not be ratified because it failed to protect the basic principles of human liberty. The U.S. Bill of Rights was influenced by George Mason's 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, works of the Age of Enlightenment pertaining to natural rights, and earlier English political documents such as the Magna Carta (1215).

Two additional articles were proposed to the States; only the final ten articles were ratified quickly and correspond to the First through Tenth Amendments to the Constitution. The first Article, dealing with the number and apportionment of U.S. Representatives, never became part of the Constitution. The second Article, limiting the ability of Congress to increase the salaries of its members, was ratified two centuries later as the 27th Amendment. Though they are incorporated into the document known as the "Bill of Rights", neither article establishes a right as that term is used today. For that reason, and also because the term had been applied to the first ten amendments long before the 27th Amendment was ratified, the term "Bill of Rights" in modern U.S. usage means only the ten amendments ratified in 1791.

The United States Bill of Rights plays a central role in American law and government, and remains a fundamental symbol of the freedoms and culture of the nation. One of the original fourteen copies of the U.S. Bill of Rights is on public display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C

Introduction of The American Revolution

In early 1775, King George, with the support of the Parliament, decided to use military force to maintain British authority in America. General Gage moved against the insubordinate citizens in Massachusetts. He sent troops to seize the colonists’ store of powder and weapons at Concord. At Lexington (April 19, 1775), 70 militiamen confronted an advance party of the 700 British troops. In that skirmish, 8 Americans died. The British then marched quickly to Concord, where they destroyed the Americans’ supplies. At the north bridge in Concord, about 350 Americans attacked a British unit; they killed 3 and wounded 8. As the British returned to Boston, thousands of colonists fired on them from both sides of their eighteen- mile route. More than 15,000 indignant New Englanders surrounded Boston. The American Revolution had begun.

Civil War Emancipation Proclamation

Civil War Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation was a combination of two executive orders issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The first one was issued on September 22, 1862 It declared the freedom of slaves in any state of the Confederacy that didn’t rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863. The second one, issued on January 1, 1863, named the specific states where it applied.

The Emancipation Proclamation was widely derided at the time for freeing only the slaves over which the Union had no power. In practice, it committed the Union to ending slavery. This was controversial even in the North. He issued the Executive Order by his authority as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.

The proclamation didn’t free any of the slaves in the Border States Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia nor any southern state already under Union control. It did, however, directly affect slaves who had escaped and made it to the Union side. Hearing of the proclamation, more slaves escaped to the Union sides as the Union army pushed further and further south. Thousands of slaves were freed every day until nearly all of them were free by July 1865.

After the war, abolitionists were concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation, being a wartime measure, had not permanently ended slavery. Many former slave states passed laws against slavery. Some slavery continued to exist legally until the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 18, 1865. Although the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free all the slaves, as most people believe, it made the freeing of all slaves inevitable upon Union victory.

The actual Emancipation Proclamation was on display at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, from September 22 to September 25, 2007, as part of the Little Rock Central High School’s 50th anniversary of integration