Juneteenth: Slavery Abolished In The U.S. In 1865 (The Aftermath)

By | June 17, 2020

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A Juneteenth celebration in Richmond, Virginia, 1905. (VCU Libraries/Wikimedia Commons)

On June 19, 1865, Union army general Gordon Granger stood on the balcony of the great Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas and read the federal order proclaiming all slaves in the United States to be free. It's safe to say that things got lit in Galveston that night—at least, as lit as possible in 1865—and Juneteeth (as it's become known) is a night for celebration to this day. But the American people still had a long way to go before slavery was entirely abolished.

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The first reading of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

The Emancipation Proclamation

Many of us have been taught that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery, but in reality, this declaration was mostly just a symbolic gesture, intended to send a message to Southern slaves and political leaders alike. Although Lincoln proclaimed on that day in September 1862 that all slaves would be freed by January 1 of the following year, few Southern slave owners respected Lincoln's deadline, so while many slaves celebrated Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, their situation hadn't actually changed. The proclamation did, however, shift the country's focus from reunification to the abolition of slavery.