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Happy Juneteenth!

     

On June 19, 1865, enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas. Union troops posted General Order 3 in various places around town, such as the Customs House and the AME Church. Most enslaved people were aware of the Emancipation Proclamation, but they were still in held in bondage until the Union had enough military presence in Texas to force slave owners to comply. Many first heard the words of General Order 3 from the mouths of their enslavers.

The order includes inspiring language:

“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.”

But even General Order 3 didn’t deliver on the promise of freedom. In addition to the above quote, it included language ordering freed people to stay put and work for wages for their former enslavers. Nor was every enslaved person automatically emancipated on June 19. It took the passage of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865 to completely abolish slavery in the border states of Delaware and Kentucky.

Nevertheless, Juneteenth is a good time to reflect on our history, celebrate freedom, and recommit to “absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property.”

Wishing you a safe, cool, and free Juneteenth!

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