THE LIBERATION RELAY

Written by on June 19, 2020

Juneteenth, celebrating the end of slavery, is a City holiday for the first time today—but Black Americans’ fight for freedom is long and enduring

Justice delayed is justice denied; or so they say.

Juneteenth, a day that should soon be a national holiday, commemorates the unofficial but actual end of slavery in these United States. The official end of slavery in the U.S. was Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation,” an executive order issued on September 22, 1862, which did not take effect until January of 1863. This was just a legislative beginning of the end. Even the “Emancipation Proclamation,” better referred to as Proclamation 95, had a built-in delay.

Lincoln’s Proclamation 95 was not exactly emancipatory either: It legally changed the status of nearly four million enslaved Africans in America, but in reality, the enslaved remained captive under Confederate control. The Confederacy was desperate to defy the Union and maintain a way of life predicated on Black subjugation, unpaid labor, torture, rape and murder. It should make us all wonder why and how mid-20th century confederate monuments are just now being brought down in town squares across America.

In 1863, tens of thousands of enslaved Black people were immediately impacted—liberated—in the Confederate states that were under Union control. Our nation’s Civil War was complex and brutal, with over 600,000 fatalities. And slavery could not end until the Civil War did.

In order to ensure that abolition was complete, President Lincoln made the legislative push for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment which ended legal slavery in the United States on December 6, 1865. Just another delay in the racial justice delayed to Black people in America.

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