On this day in 1865 the last of those enslaved in the former Confederate States of America learned they were free. It happened in Galveston, Texas when Major General Gordon Granger proclaimed General Order Number 3.
President Lincoln never believed the Confederacy was a valid nation but were instead states in rebellion against the country. Because of that he insisted that they were subject to our laws and the Emancipation Proclaimation decreed that anyone enslaved in those rebellious states were automatically freed from bondage.
Obviously slaveholders in the South disagreed and declined to tell their slaves of their freedom. At the time they still expected to win the war. But on April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered and ended the Civil War.
But still, slaveholders in Texas refused to free their slaves. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that word got out to everyone.
Juneteenth reminds us not only that freedom can never be taken for granted. Juneteenth ended legal slavery but it didn’t end racial discrimination. Today we find many of these same states passing laws that make voting more difficult (disproportionately affecting people of color) and demanding school history curricula that downplays slavery.
So while we celebrate let us continue to remain vigilant.