President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which dictated that all slaves in the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” But the law only mattered on paper.
With a limited number of Union Army troops (U.S. Army) on the ground, Major General Gordon Granger, weren’t able to inform states about the proclamation as quickly as today’s digital age moves. In fact, they weren’t even close.
It took Maj. Gen. Granger and the Union Army two-and-a-half years to notify Texas — the final rebellious state — that all slaves were now in fact free as declared on June 19, 1865.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865
Imagine a world where a law is passed by executive order to end your enslavement, but you’re still held prisoner because there weren’t enough soldiers to deliver the news fast enough. Imagine being continually raped, spat on and beaten two-and-a-half years longer than legally permitted. Imagine Union soldiers sitting back and allowing slave owners to get one more season of work out of you before requiring them to compensate you for your labor.
Now, imagine living in a world where you’re fully aware of and enjoying your freedom, yet you sit back and watch forms of modern day slavery take place and think you’ll solve the problem with 210 words or less.
The latter world is what currently defines the racial, social and economic climate of the 21st century — 153 years removed from a time when the Black community banded together to ensure all freedoms.
However, with a new and extremely unorthodox regime in office, the state of America is sliding backwards once again. Thus, the fight for freedom has resurfaced, and its death toll is increasing at an exponentially high rate. So what now?
The question has yet to be answered, but hopefully it will appear before two-and-a-half more years go by.
Take a look at what some of the Black community’s most influential people have to say about #Juneteenth below.
On #Juneteenth, we celebrate emancipation and remember the long struggle for freedom. The slaves in Galveston were not told they were free until 2 yrs after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. More than 150 yrs later, our work is far from finished to achieve equality for all. pic.twitter.com/QAvVZGTxH5
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 19, 2018
"Juneteenth is a time to recommit ourselves to the work that remains undone. We remember that even in the darkest hours, there is cause to hope for tomorrow’s light." —@BarackObama marking Juneteenth in 2016
— The Obama Foundation (@ObamaFoundation) June 19, 2018
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) June 19, 2018