Much has been made of making "Juneteenth" a national holiday and recognizing it as representing the emancipation date of those enslaved. I, for one, am not in favor of "Juneteenth" becoming a national holiday for the reason that June 19, 1865, does not represent the date of emancipation of all those bound in chattel slavery.
After graduating from high school, I matriculated at Texas Southern University in Houston. TSU is one of the 101 public and private historically black colleges and universities in the United States. It was from my friends and classmates, native Houstonians, that I learned about the significance of Juneteenth, now a state holiday in Texas.
On June 19, 1865, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation (two months after President Lincoln's assassination), Union Army General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 in the city of Galveston, proclaiming the emancipation of all those enslaved in Texas. The American Civil War was over that preceding April with the defeat of the Confederate States. Texas being so vast in size and the most remote of the slave states made enforcement of the order slow and inconsistent.
A common misconception is that this date marks the end of slavery in the U.S. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (or Proclamation 95) on Sept. 22, 1862, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 1863. It effectively emancipated all enslaved individuals only in Confederate states that were in rebellion.
Proclamation 95 was an executive order that did not apply to the four slave states (Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and Missouri) that were not in rebellion, nor to Union-troop-occupied Tennessee, southern Louisiana and other regions under Union military control. It also specifically excluded those counties of Virginia which were soon to form the state of West Virginia.
For an executive order to have a lasting effect, one might argue, it needs to be made into legislation.
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in the Senate on April 8, 1864, and by the House of Representatives on Jan. 31, 1865. This amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Some see this exception as the forerunner of the modern-day prison industrial complex.
Constitutional amendments need to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures to be become part of the Constitution. This occurred on Dec. 6, 1865, when the Georgia legislature became the 26th state (out of the 36 states in the then reconstituted Union) to ratify the amendment. However, there were holdouts. Among the holdouts was Kentucky, which rejected the 13th Amendment even after the Civil War and fall of the Confederacy. Chattel slavery as an institution legally ended on Dec. 18, 1865, after state ratification of the 13th Amendment. The Kentucky state legislature did not ratify the 13th Amendment until 1976.
Mississippi was the last state to ratify the 13th Amendment in 1995, but its secretary of state never sent a copy of the resolution to the Office of the Federal Register. The Office of the Federal Register was not notified until 2013.
I see Juneteenth as an official Texas state holiday. With the migration of African Americans from Texas (including my forebears who migrated from Texas to Oklahoma and to Kansas City, Missouri, before finally settling in southern California, where I was born), the tradition in some cases traveled with them.
Carl B. Anderson is a resident of the Damascus neighborhood in east Happy Valley.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.