Learn more about a story that goes beyond symbolic gestures and takes a decisive stance in support of justice.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln initially viewed the war only in terms of preserving the Union. As a white supremacist, he did not regard the lives of Black people as equal to Whites. Therefore, he did not originally have a strong position on ensuring freedom was accessible to everyone living in the U.S. However, as pressure for abolition mounted in Congress and throughout the country, Lincoln became more accepting of the idea. On Sept. 22, 1862, he issued a preliminary proclamation announcing that emancipation, followed by a formal declaration of Emancipation On Jan. 1, 1863.
In this declaration, President Lincoln declared free all slaves residing in territory in rebellion against the federal government. This Emancipation Proclamation however actually freed few people. As we have learned all too often, America extends rights to people paper, while at the same hesitating to enforce protections to those same rights. For instance, the Emancipation Proclamation did initially not apply to slaves in border states fighting on behalf of the Union; nor did it affect slaves in southern areas already under Union control.
The states in rebellion also did not act on Lincoln's order. Thus, the people of Galveston had to wait 2 years before finding out that they were free. It is for this reason we honor Juneteenth: Firstly, the we celebrate that Black people participated in their own liberation to make the events of Galveston possible. Reverence for Juneteenth also expresses respect for many Americans that went beyond the acceptance of symbolic gestures, assuming instead, a stance against slavery that was enforced.