At the dawn of the African American enlightenment period better known as Black Folk Becoming Woke, people are becoming more interested in the history of those who were once slaves. As a teacher I am saddened and embarrassed to admit that our kids will learn more about African American history on social media pages than any class they take. Though a math teacher, I use February as a chance to give students their history at the beginning of my class period. I say OUR history because American history is incompletely taught without the admission of the African American contributions.
The African American didn’t start at slavery and our history didn’t end in the Civil Rights era, but that’s the implication. We all know that is untrue. There is one story innparticular that we are taught incompletely, that is, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves. This is only partially true. It wasn’t until I was preparing for class this year (2017) that I looked closer into the story of the Emancipation Proclamation. I discovered a few interesting things:
- Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation to leverage the Union over the Confederate Army by freeing the slaves in the Confederate States not occupied by the Union.
- It was still legal to have slaves in Boarder States and in Confederate states the Union states.
- The Emancipation was not enough to secure the fate of the slaves after the Civil War so the 13th Amendment was passed 1865 which made slavery completely illegal.
I always thought that the Emancipation freed all slaves, and the Juneteenth was just the day that Southwest and Western states found out about it. Not true! Juneteenth, June 19th 1865, was the day the state of Texas found out the war was won and slaves were free. Without going into extensive American History territory I’ll just say this:
In order for bills to become law they have to reach a 2/3 majority in the Senate and the House, this is the Congressional stage. From there it is accepted on the state level. (forgive me history teachers if the I’m off, just a math teacher’s understanding) The amendment was passed by the Senate April of 1864. The house barely reached a 2/3 vote at the end of January 1865. Finally the Amendment was ratified by majority of the states which allowed the 13th amendment ruled slavery illegal by December of the same year.
While all the legalities were taking place the Confederate States were still fighting the inevitable. The beginning of the end of the war started when the Confederate president Andrew Davis fled their capital of Richmond Virginia after it fell April 2nd. A week later the Surrender at Appomattox was the most significant defeat which led to several other surrenders withing the Confederate.
There was no 10 o’clock news or radio to alert the country of the changes taking place. Every town had to wait notification from whomever delivered the mail at the time. Here’s where our Juneteenth becomes official. Above I gave you the background of what was going on in the country as the Civil War was coming to an end and I forgot to mention that our guy Abe was just assassinated but the momentum of freeing the slaves was steered by the whole Republican party at the time, so that ship was full steam ahead.
So Union Generals and soldiers were traveling through Confederate States informing the black population of their new status. Revelation started around late April and didn’t reach Texas till June the 19th, to be exact, when Union General Gordon Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of slaves in Galveston, Texas. Why is the Texas’ such a big deal? Simply put, Texas was the last state to find out about the civil war ending. For perspective look at these numbers: by the 1860s there were 1000s of slaves that lived in the Houston and Galveston areas. By 1865 there was an estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas. So upon this announcement the biggest party ever followed and everyone knows it’s the size of the party that makes it memorable.
January 1st 1980 made Texas the first state to make June 19th an official state holiday. Every year it receives a larger platform of acknowledgement. In 1997, Congress recognized the day through Senate and House. In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 175, which included acknowledgement of the contributions of Ms. Lula Briggs Galloway the late president of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage.