On September 22, 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed into law, Proclamation 95 – also known as the Emancipation Proclamation. This Proclamation was to go into effect on January 1, 1863. At the time more than 3.5 million African Americans in the Confederate states were enslaved. Proclamation 95 changed the legal status from slave to free under federal law of these African American people. Just to recap: The United States is in the middle of the Civil War, which undeniably begins to revolve around the issue of slavery as much as it does the issue of preserving the union.
The purpose of this Proclamation lays the foundation for eventual freedom, but was actually to strong arm the rebel states to rejoin the union by January 1 or their slaves would be be declared “thenceforward, and forever free.” The Emancipation was only applied to Confederate states currently in rebellion. The 4 border slave states were exempt from the proclamation as were all or parts of three Confederate states controlled by the Union Army. (Anyone else feel like they slept through US history class? … I thought the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves and everyone went on their merry way…)
President Lincoln had little to no jurisdiction on the Confederate states, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free anyone…THANKFULLY its symbolic impact was enormous. The announcement of freedom for enslaved people as one of the North’s war aims, alongside preserving the Union itself, had practical effects. Other countries, like Britain and France, were no longer as interested in supporting the confederacy. If slaves happened to hear about the Emancipation Proclamation the ran away from their owners to the north, to the free states. Black Americans were permitted to serve in the Union Army for the first time, and by the end of the Civil war, nearly 200,000 would.
In April 1865, Confederate General in Chief Robert E. Lee surrendered to Commanding General Ulysses S. Grant of the US Army after the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. This is often viewed as the end of the Civil War, but the fighting did not stop in all areas, as news did not travel fast!
Deep into May 1865, battles between federal troops and Confederate forces continued in Texas. It was not until June 2, 1865, that Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith finally surrendered to US forces.
On June 19, 1865, US Brigadier General Gordon Granger and his troops landed at Galveston, Texas confirming the news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved African Americans were now free. This is the day we now honor and cherish as Juneteenth! Before General Granger’s arrival, the US military presence in Texas was too weak to enforce President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Two months after General Lee’s surrender in Virginia, Union forces were now finally strong enough to act as a liberating force for enslaved African Americans throughout Texas.
Thankfully, President Lincoln and Congress realized the Proclamation would have no constitutional leg to stand on at the end of the war, and set into motion the 13th Amendment which was ratified on December 6, 1865 – just 7 months after the end of the Civil War. This is what officially abolished slavery in all areas of the nation.
Juneteenth captures the jubilation of the end of slavery in the Confederacy. In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas and has since been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
To help you reflect and remember this day and what it means I have compiled a set of 7 quotes from the website junteenth.com that are meant to help learners reflect and focus on self improvement as well as truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today.
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