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Juneteenth

I don’t want to be “that guy;” but I wish CNN, NPR, and others, would stop staying that “slavery ended on June 19th, 1865.” Yes, June 19th is when the Union army showed up in Galveston, Texas.

Keep in mind that the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the United States. The Proclamation applied only to “any State or designated part of a State… in rebellion against the United States.” It specifically excluded Memphis, New Orleans, and Norfolk and similarly did not apply to the border slave states of Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware—slaveholding states that sided with the Union. Therefore, the Proclamation only declared those enslaved to be free where people were in rebellion—and over one million African-Americans outside those areas remained enslaved. In other words, if you sided with the Union [and Lincoln] you could keep your enslaved humans. Texas was in the Confederacy. On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, with a force of Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, delivered General Order Number 3, that the war was over and the enslaved Blacks in Texas were “free.”

My point is that AFTER Juneteenth, slavery was not only practiced but was LEGAL in border states until December 6, 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified and abolished non-penal slavery nationwide.

Yes, we should ALL celebrate Juneteenth. I am not throwing shade on Juneteenth. Just remember that over one million Blacks remained legally enslaved after June 19th. And, that the promise of General Order Number 3, “an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves” quickly devolved into the next 100+ years of legalized, constitutional, and judicially sanctioned, Jim Crow racial segregation and discrimination.

And of course, when these legal “institutionalized” forms of racist discrimination did not stop Black progress and political activity, violence and cruelty were employed.  Beatings, lynching, and other forms of murder were not only sanctioned but were promoted by many white political leaders and citizens’ terrorists’ groups like the Ku Klux Klan.  Historian John Hope Franklin has called this period [after Juneteenth] the “darkest and bloodiest hour for African-Americans…the cruelty was worse than slavery…at least a slave was valuable if obedient.”  In 2015, the Equal Justice Initiative reported that “[F]rom the Civil War until World War II, millions of African Americans were terrorized and traumatized by the lynching of thousands of black men, women and children.”[1]


[1]See Executive summary: http://www.eji.org/files/EJI%20Lynching%20in%20America%20SUMMARY.pdf and Equal Justice Initiative Website:   http://www.eji.org/node/1037


10 Comments

  1. June 19th is wildly misunderstood as the day the last enslaved people were freed, myself included until now. The historical exclusion of union loyal states being allowed to continue slavery until the ratification of the 13th amendment feels like an intentional omission of truth to support and sustain the narrative that Abe Lincoln and the Emancipation proclamation freed slaves. Alerting those in Galveston, TX that enslaved people were now freed did not do much to help the newly free people with not federal or local enforcement of the emancipation, and many people- especially those in non-free border states- remained enslaved well into the 1860s.

  2. Junteenth is absolutely important, but I think the point you’re trying to make is that it did not free the million of those that were still enslaved after Juneteenth and we have to acknowledge that. The emancipation proclamation did not stop the end of slavery, it was to stop the rebellion states because we see that those states with slavery that joined the union were still allowed to legally practice slavery.

  3. While I can understand how some individuals took this very very small step as a big step and want to commemorate and celebrate such a day, it is greatly mis taught and so many crucial events and pieces of information are left out when teaching about the Emancipation. The cruel and heinous treatment continued, while some states were “free” of it, many large cities still owned slaves and the cycle still continued. The government did not care for the enslaved to “free” them for the sake of humanity, it was there own personal agenda, they wanted to preserve the Union. And they got exactly that, by “emancipating” some states, but allowing slave owners to keep their slaves in certain(important) states as long as they sided with the union. Again, I understand why it is celebrated, it educated others on the history of slavery but it also leaves out very important points.

  4. I think Juneteenth also fails to recognize all the abuses after federal support fled the South in Reconstruction. The application of the civil war amendments were particularly wack. For instance, the court made a distinction between state and united states citizenship and so much of the “protecting” was left up to the states to decide and enforce. Of course, in the South, this meant the equal protection under the law was subject to a lot of white supremacist interpretation. As for the actual abolishment of slavery, it still allowed forced labor for punishment so who is to say, in a state where an innocent black person is convicted for raping a white women, is given a white jury and a foul judge, that they would be given a heavy sentence and worked for the rest of their life. This is assuming that corrupt deputies won’t let a white terrorist group snatch the person awaiting trial to hang in public.

  5. I understand that want of not wanting to appear as if you’re undermining an important event, but I think it’s still really dire to bring these kinds of things up. That for something so important as freeing the enslaved, they couldn’t even get it right to ensure that the information was notified to them, and that they actually became freed. It took until the rest of that year for them to be considered legally free.

  6. I have to echo the sentiments of my classmates in that emancipation and the actions of june 19th were important but not what the community needed. During this struggle enslaved and people of color were pawns used by either side. Neither side had the best interest of those who were being wronged. Emancipation and the lack of restorative justice demonstrates this.

  7. I understand the importance of Juneteenth for some people- why it gives them hope and helps them feel liberated, why it helps bring attention to the horrors of this nation’s history. However, it has perpetuated a false narrative, and misrepresenting history is something we should also be battling. World history is often taught Eurocentrically, and for a long time we’ve had a washed sense of black history. Juneteenth was the end of some enslavement, and the start of some of the most unfathomable treatments of people to be accounted for. The era of segregation was the willful mistreatment of black people in America. It was not umbrellaed under the law of slavery, it was simple colorism, racism, white-supremacy, ignorance, inhumanity all after the legal rejection of human enslavement. Now that it has caught on and become a sort of “brand” I don’t think we should go about changing it. However, we should use it as an opportunity to teach that this was not the end of slavery, but the start of an unsupervised deep-rooted racism that has yet to escape this country.

  8. There is certainly an importance behind June 19th as it was a big step toward eradicating slavery, but these big steps don’t culminate in freedom until years later. It’s important to recognize that there was still a constitutionally legal way to practice slavery in the states that was outlined in a document called the “Emancipation Proclamation” which clearly goes to show how true to their word these proclamations were. Further, this event largely gets overlooked in the grand scheme of the history of the U.S., but it’s an important one that acknowledges the strides that would be slowly, but surely, taken to eradicating the institution of slavery. It wasn’t everything, but it wasn’t nothing and that seems to be the name of the game for abolition.

  9. I think it would be better to celebrate Black Independence Day on the day the 13th Amendment was ratified rather than on June 19th. I feel like no one talks about how over a million Blacks were excluded from the Emancipation Proclamation and how it didn’t apply to 4 states and 3 big cities. Lincoln understood that “freeing the slaves” was crucial to saving the Union, he did not care about the racial injustices in the nation or the systematic oppression and inhumane treatment of Blacks, free or not.

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