The Emancipation Proclamation did not End Slavery. Here’s what DidRoundup
tags: slavery, emancipation, Juneteenth, Thirteenth Amendment
Clarence Lusane is a professor of political science at Howard University and the author of The Black History of the White House (City Lights, 2010), among other books.
The legal designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday recognizes a pivotal moment in U.S. history. While nearly every state and many cities previously celebrated Juneteenth, President Biden’s signing this into law on June 18 provided the nation’s highest approval and recognition.
Unfortunately, most of the reporting on Juneteenth erroneously conflates the arrival of Gen. Gordon Granger and Union troops in Galveston, Tex., on June 19, 1865, with the official end of slavery in the United States. That’s a misreading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
A recent Gallup Poll reported that 37 percent of adults say they know “a lot” or “some” about Juneteenth, and that 69 percent of African Americans made those claims. But it is not clear what respondents actually know.
As a legal matter, slavery officially ended in the United States on Dec. 6, 1865, when the 13th Amendment was ratified by three-quarters of the then-states — 27 out of 36 — and became a part of the Constitution. The text reads, in part, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Some legal historians, scholars, activists and even filmmakers have seen the “exception” clause as a loophole, included to appease the South, allowing states to reinstitute slave-like conditions such as chain gangs and prison labor.
Nevertheless, at that moment, chattel slavery was forever outlawed — including in the last two slaveholding states, Delaware and Kentucky. Neither had done so before then; neither were bound to do so under the provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation, which emancipated enslaved people only in states“ in rebellion against the United States.”
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