Posted about 1 year ago by Lisa Crisman

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed by Congress in 1865 so “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude” would be legal in the United States. However, the amendment would pass with much controversy over its interpretation.

The Emancipation Proclamation, declared by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the American Civil War, only freed slaves held in Confederate states. Only through the Thirteenth Amendment did emancipation become national policy. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, and by the House on January 31, 1865. The joint resolution of both bodies that submitted the amendment to the states for approval was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865. Ratified on December 6, 1865, it was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments adopted between 1865 and 1870 following the American Civil War. 

But not everyone in Confederate territory would immediately be free. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until much later. Freedom finally came on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as “Juneteenth,” by the newly freed people in Texas. (from the National Museum of African American History and Culture)

Juneteenth, an annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War, has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s. President Biden signed legislation in 2021 that made Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, a federal holiday, after interest in the day was renewed during the summer of 2020 and the nationwide protests that followed the police killings of Black Americans including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. There has been a noticeable increase in Juneteenth celebrations across the United States over the past few years.” (New York Times: June 9, 2023)

Would you like to introduce young readers to the story of Juneteenth and its importance in American history? Check out one of the titles listed below from your local Richmond Public Library.

Lisa Crisman

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