The Independence of Black America

Juneteenth, Freedom, Emancipation Proclamation, Slavery, Civil War
When the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, the founding fathers wrote that all men are created equal, but they didn't view my ancestors as men. Despite fighting in the Revolutionary War (on both sides), black people were enslaved for more than 100 years after the formation of country. It wasn'tvuntil Civil War that things turned around. Countrary to popular belief, the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 only freed the slaves in the states rebelling against country. The institution of slavery (based on race, at least) wasn't formally outlawed until the 13th ammendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.[2][3]

The Civil War

Many people believe the Civil War was about state's rights. The right that the states who formed the confederacy were fighting for was the right to uphold slavery. The abolisionist movement was growing in the North, and countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, and Britain, had already outlawed slavery by the time the Civil War broke out. Much like the atmosphere of today, the country was reaching a boiling point over the issue. The people in the free states out numbered those in the slave states, this is why the Three Fifths Compromise was created in the first place, so once the notion of freeing the slaves throughout the country caught on, it became a real possibility that it would pass as law. With the defeat of the Confederate Army in April 1865, all that was left was to formalize the Union victory with the 13th Ammendment.


The Confederacy did not take the loss well (as evidenced by the monuments and flags that are still erected to this day). When Lincoln proclaimed the Confederate slaves to be free, this freed black army units forced to fight in the war by their master, which was part of the goal. However, since these states were in rebellion against the Union, Lincoln's proclamation didn't carry any weight. Slave owners were not going to suddenly free their slaves, and slaves were forbidden to read so they didn't know they had been set free. Union soldiers had to liberate slaves as they defeated cities and regions. The last known occurrence of this happened on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.
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 Order No. 3


Just as the US wasn't truly an independent nation on July 4, 1776, many blacks were still enslaved after June 19, 1865.[5] Even if slave owners had been cooperative, there was the question of where people would go and what they would do. From a Biblical perspective, when slaves were set free, they were not supposed to be sent out empty handed (Deuteronomy 15:12-13). However, when the "40 Acres and A Mule" proposal fell through, that's exactly what happened,[6] paving the way for the Jim Crow South, and the next phase of the battle.

Nonetheless, June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth) symbolizes the beginning of equality for black people in the U.S.—it was the first major milestone in the fight for freedom. For many of us, this is the true day of independence.

Footnotes and References

  1. Colette Coleman. "7 Black Heroes of the American Revolution". History. February 11, 2020
  2. "13th Amendment ratified". History. November 13, 2009
  3. For caveats on what the 13th ammendment actually does please view the Netflix documentary 13th
  4. Michel Martin and Lonnie Bunch. "What The Emancipation Proclamation Didn't Do". NPR. January 9, 2013
  5. Stacy Conradt. "12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth". Mental Floss. June 19, 2018
  6. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "The Truth Behind ’40 Acres and a Mule’". PBS; visited Jun 17, 2020

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