Formerly Enslaved Sea Islanders: Freed?

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  • Formerly Enslaved Sea Islanders: Freed?
  • General Hunter issued a military order freeing blacks in the Sea Islands but it was rescinded by Lincoln shortly thereafter: President Lincoln developed his own plan of emancipation – the Emancipation Proclamation – officially making the “contraband of war slaves” freedmen on January 1, 1863.
  • Charlotte Forten, the first Black missionary teacher in Port Royal, was present in Hilton Head on that day and gave an account of this historic day in an article for Atlantic Magazine: “There was an eager, wondering crowd of freed people in their holiday attire with the gayest of head-handkerchiefs, the whitest of aprons, and the happiest of faces. The band was playing, the flags streaming, everybody talking merrily.” Thousands gathered to hear President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation read publicly for the first time in South Carolina; Forten called it “the most glorious day this nation has yet seen.”
  • However, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free millions of slaves behind Confederate lines, including those in the South Carolina mainland. While Hilton Head and freedom were so close, it was still so far.