What Every American Should Know About Juneteenth
The day represents the end of slavery and the beginning of freedom for African Americans
Juneteenth Freedom Day, also referred to as Black Independence Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and just plain Juneteenth, is the celebration of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas conveying the Civil War ended and all enslaved people were now free.
Most people assume the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, freed the enslaved. For the longest time, I did too.
But like most American history I learned in school, there’s usually more to it.
This is what really happened.
The Emancipation Proclamation called for instantaneous freedom for all enslaved people throughout the nation. However, since the country was still fighting the Civil War at the time the proclamation was issued, the Confederate states that seceded from the Union thumbed their noses at the executive order. And if there weren’t enough Union troops around to enforce the order, the enslaved people in those states remained enslaved.
One of President Abraham Lincoln’s greatest accomplishments is that he freed the enslaved. And it should be, although Lincoln’s purpose was not to save the enslaved, but to save the Union.
In the summer of 1862, the editor of the New York Tribune, Horace Greely, wrote an editorial berating Lincoln for not abolishing slavery. Lincoln responded: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or destroy slavery. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union…”
The Emancipation Proclamation gave Lincoln some political clout and increased the Union military strength because the enslaved Black men could fight for the Union. Although they faced discrimination, (yes, in the Union army) they fought courageously for their new freedom and the Union.