Letter from Annie Davis to Abraham Lincoln
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“Mr. President, It is my Desire to be free,” wrote Annie Davis to Abraham Lincoln, 20 months after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Writing from Belair, Maryland, she continued, “Will you please let me know if we are free.” Although there is no record of Lincoln ever responding, had he, his answer would have been “No, you are not free.”
The Emancipation Proclamation affected only those parts that were in rebellion against the United States on the date it was issued, January 1, 1863. The slaveholding border states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were thus exempt from the Proclamation.
However, in November 1864 the Maryland state constitution was rewritten. The new version abolished slavery, and Annie Davis was free.
Text adapted from “It is My Desire to be Free: Annie Davis’s Letter to Abraham Lincoln and Winslow Homer’s Painting A Visit from the Old Mistress” in the May/June 2010 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) publication Social Education.
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