Today, June 19th, is a day of celebration. It marks the day in 1865 that slaves in the slave state of Texas learned with the arrival of Union troops that they had been freed — two and a half years earlier.
Yes, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 had legally set them free, but the message, delivered with the arrival of Union troops in the waning days of the Civil War, had just reached them. With this final act, the last of 4 million men, women and children of African descent began their first days of freedom in America.
Nearly 250 years after the first 20 African slaves landed at Jamestown,Virginia, the first step had been taken toward dignity, equality and opportunity for a people on whose uncompensated labor the wealth of a nation had been built. A people 4 million strong who now started this long march with little more than the clothes on their back.
But it was THE start. A few months later in 1865 it would be followed by the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution legally prohibiting slavery, not just in slave states, but throughout the land. 100 years later it would be followed by the passage of the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s, another monumental step in the march toward dignity, equality and opportunity.
Today, 152 years later — after nearly 8 generations have struggled to cast off the trauma of slavery and the crippling policies and practices of discrimination — Americans of African descent honor this transformative journey by marking, with celebration, its beginning.
Local and state celebrations are spreading; Texas has made June 19th a state holiday. Check out local announcements and community papers to see what’s going on. Read the wealth of information about it provided by the New York Times.
Show your support. All are welcome to the celebration of OUR American story of new beginnings.