Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
Freedom in Helena!
The Emancipation Proclamation
"...all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free ..." A. Lincoln
With a stroke of a pen, President Abraham Lincoln changed the Civil War from a war to preserve the Union to a war to end slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Arkansas and all states in rebellion against the United States.
Joyful Celebrations in Helena
The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863. That New Year's Eve, freedom seekers in Helena celebrated into the early morning hours. The men, women and children who fled farms and plantations to follow the Union army to Helena were free!
Escaping to Helena and Freedom
The Emancipation Proclamation freed millions of enslaved people, but claiming that freedom was another matter for most. Former slaves in Arkansas outside of Helena could not exercise the freedom Lincoln granted unless they escaped Confederate control. Many chose to do just that. In the first months of 1863, hundreds of individuals came into Helena. Some remained, but many fled to the North.
The Thirteenth Amendment
The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the states still in rebellion, but it did not free all slaves. For political reasons, certain areas were exempt. It was not until December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment became law,
The long wished for Year of Jubilee has now come for the Negroes, and their joy is great thereat."
Dr. Charles Brackett, 9th Illinois Cavalry, describing celebrations in Helena on the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation becoming law.
Right: This print, titled Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, was created in 1864.
Left: A keepsake card commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation.
Erected 2013 by Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
Location. 34° 30.754′ N, 90° 35.582′ W. Marker is in Helena, Arkansas, in Phillips County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Biscoe Street and Little Rock Road. Touch for map. Located within Freedom Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 700 Biscoe Street, Helena AR 72342, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Hard Road to Equal Rights (here, next to this marker); Becoming Soldiers (a few steps from this marker); Helena's Contraband Camps (within shouting distance of this marker); Seizing Freedom (within shouting distance of this marker); Holding the Little Rock Road (within shouting distance of this marker); African American Troops Held This Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); General J.F. Fagan's Attack (approx. half a mile away); Battery D (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Helena.
More about this marker.
Freedom Park is the first site in Arkansas to be designated for inclusion on the National Park Service's National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program and is part of Arkansas Civil War Discovery Trail.
Also see . . . Encyclopedia of Arkansas article on Contraband Camps. (Submitted on September 3, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Notable Events • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 3, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 3, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 92 times since then and 31 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 3, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.