For Americans in 1863, this day was not one especially suited to a greeting of “Happy New Year.” But in a nation riven by Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln used the occasion of the new year to inject a moral component into the crisis by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. While this document was a half-measure, it buttressed the Union cause and led — at the war’s end — to slavery’s elimination. The 1860 Census found the U.S. population to number nearly 31.5 million. Just over 311,000, less then 1 percent were listed as free blacks. In today’s all free population of over 308 million Americans, there are more than 39 million people of African heritage. Profile America is in its 16th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.