Juneteenth, a day to Celebrate

by Mike McClure

…So the other day I was talking with some friends from Texas and was reminded of the importance of the holiday Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

It was on June 19, 1865 that Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War was over and that all who were enslaved were free.

The Emancipation Proclamation had become law on January 1, 1863 and over 200,000 “freedmen”, as the former slaves were called, served honorably in the Union Army but there had not been any way to enforce the law in the rebel states.

After Lee’s surrender in April of 1865, except for pockets of resistance, the war was over but it still would take two months and the arrival of Major General Granger and his troops in Galveston for the last of the states in the Confederacy to be brought in line.

There have been many excuses given over the years why it took so long for the Emancipation Proclamation to be enforced. Some thought that the rich southern land owners had bribed federal agents to hold off until the last cotton crops had been harvested.

There was the line that emancipated slaves, now free sovereign citizens, would stay on the plantations and work for wages. In fact the exact opposite happened, in many place where there was a mass exodus from the rural south to the job opportunities in the north and contributed to the greatest industrial expansion of the country.

A simpler answer was that the feds probably didn’t know what to do – not uncommon today with what comes out of Washington D.C.

Whatever the reasons for the delay, Major General Granger and his troops brought an end to the war and with it to slavery in this country in the last stronghold of the confederacy on June 19, 1865.

The promise of the Emancipation Proclamation must still be kept today and forever if we as a country will survive.