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The Emancipation Proclamation and the "Freedom Day" Celebration Re-visited:

By Kirkland Burke

Presented by Omni-U Virtual University

"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous  decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their capacity. But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free…"The " I have a Dream Speech" delivered by Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 28, 1963

Just as [Confederate General] Robert E. Lee's surrender was not the end of the Civil War, neither was what is now called "Juneteenth" the end of slavery in the United States of America.

While it was the most significant surrender to take place during the Civil War, the rebels' most respected commander surrendered only the traitors who made up the so-called Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865 ending the Battle of Appomattox. Not until 16 months after Appomattox, on August 20, 1866, did  President Lincoln formally declare an end to the War.

Keep in mind that  the "freed slaves" were considered "contrabands of war" by the Union Army because ,at that time, enslaved Africans -or people of African descent in America- were not citizens and, therefore, were not Americans [ nor were they African- Americans]. They were Africans. [1]

Although "Juneteenth" commemorates  the end of slavery in Texas, in June of 1865, Texas was not a part of the United States of America in 1865 because it had seceded from the Union on April 1, 1861. It was not readmitted to the Union until March 30, 1870.

The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to the states that were in rebellion at that point in time. Obviously the "Emancipation Proclamation" did not apply to the other states that held no slaves:

"The “designated States” to which the Proclamation applied were ten in number—Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia—with certain exceptions... As structured, the Proclamation emancipated slaves only in areas formally allied with the Confederacy and not under Union control. Far from putting an end to slavery, in other words, it decreed the freedom of slaves where the Union had the least practical capability of effecting such emancipation

As summarized by a critical editorial in the New York Herald, “[w]hile the Proclamation leaves slavery untouched where [Lincoln’s] decree can be enforced, he emancipated slaves where his decree cannot be enforced.” This, of course, is the central paradox of the Emancipation Proclamation and is probably the feature most misapprehended by those who today conceive of the decree as a foundational abolitionist document"

*The Emancipation Proclamation—Sesquicentennial Reflections

By Scott C. Idleman.

December 26, 2012 

In reality, the Emancipation Proclamation freed nobody because the Confederate States of America had seceded from the United States of America. [2]

In 1863, President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Nonetheless, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation. 

On April 2, 1866, President Johnson issued a proclamation stating that the war was over in all of the former Confederate states but one-Texas-which had not yet succeeded in establishing a new state government.After President Johnson accepted Texas’ new constitution—which provided limited civil rights for blacks but refused to ratify the 13th Amendment, on the grounds that the abolition of slavery was already federal law—statewide elections were held in June. On August 9,1866, the conservative Unionist James Webb Throckmorton was inaugurated as governor. (He would be removed from office the following year, due to his resistance to Reconstruction.)

On August 20, 1866, in acknowledgement of Texas’ new state government, Johnson was able to finally proclaim that “said insurrection is at an end and that peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority now exist in and throughout the whole United States of America.” However, Texas had still not been readmitted to the Union at that time. 

"Juneteenth" is the oldest known celebration commemorating the "ending of slavery."  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news of Lee's surrender and President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. 

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact in Texas… With the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance to the Executive Order.

Below is the part of Gen. Granger's General Order 3. that most people overlook. It "advises" the former slaves to stay put on the plantation, remain docile and to ask their former owners to pay them wages for the work they would now do. In reality, that kept them in DeFacto slavery. They were not free to leave. "...they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere." 

After the war, the southern economy was in ruins. The only way to get the country back on solid economic footing was to get the plantations and farms back to being productive. That would have been impossible if all the Africans had fled the south or refused to work for their former owners.

The "end of slavery" has been  followed by "Share cropping", "Jim Crow" Laws and "Black Code" Laws. 

Technically, descendants of enslaved Africans didn't obtain nationally recognized citizenship until the 14th Amendment was ratified. The states that didn't ratify the 14th Amendment until the 20th Century were: Delaware (1901), Maryland (1959), California (1959), Kentucky (1976), and Ohio (September 17, 2003) [Ohio had rescinded its ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868].

Since last week there have been historians, professors, ministers, community activists, and politicians appearing on radio and television proclaiming Juneteenth as being everything from the end of slavery to the end of the Civil War. Neither is true.

I know we thirst for knowledge of our history but, in seeking to quench that thirst, we must be factual.


General Orders Numbers 3, 4, & 5

One of General Granger’s first orders issued was to INFORM the people of Texas of General Order Number 3 which began most significantly as:




"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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.

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.

By order of Major-Gen. GRANGER.

F.W. EMERY, Major and A.A.G.



GENERAL ORDERS, No. 4. -- All acts of the Governor and Legislature of Texas, since the Ordinance of Secession, are hereby declared illegitimate.

All civil and military officers and agents of the so-called Confederate States Government, or of the State of Texas, and all persons formerly connected with the Confederate States Army, in Texas, will at once report for parole at one of the following places, or such others an may be designated hereafter, to the proper United States officers to be appointed: Houston, Galveston, Bonham, San Antonio, Marshall and Brownsville.

Although their long absence from their homes, and the peculiar circumstances of their State, may palliate their desertion from their organizations, this order will be strictly and promptly complied with.

The above-mentioned, and all other persons having in their possession public property of any description whatever, as arms, horses, munitions, &c., formerly belonging to the so-called Confederate States, or State of Texas, will immediately deliver to the proper United States officer at the nearest of above-mentioned places.

When they cannot carry it, and have not the means of transporting it, they will make to the same officer a full report of its character, quantity, location, security, &c.

All persons not complying promptly with this order will be arrested as prisoners of war and sent North for imprisonment, and their property forfeited.

All lawless persons committing acts of violence, such as banditti, guerrillas, jayhawkers, horse thieves, &c., &c., are hereby declared outlaws and enemies of the human race, and will be dealt with accordingly.

By command of Maj.-Gen. GRANGER.

F.W. EMERY, Major, and A.A.G.



GENERAL ORDERS, No. 5. -- Until the arrival of the proper Treasury agents in this district all cotton may be turned into the Quartermaster's Department for shipment to New-Orleans or New-York, there to be sold to the United States Purchasing Agents. In case of such consignments, bills of lading will be given, and the owner will be permitted to accompany his property for the purpose of effecting its sale to the purchasing agents. No cotton, or other products of insurrectionary States, can be shipped on other conditions.

By order of Major-Gen. GRANGER

"The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes, and work for wa" es. 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."


[1] It was the 14th Amendment -ratified July 9, 1868- that granted citizenship to the former enslaved Africans living at that point-in-time and their descendants in America.

[2]Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia formed the Confederate States of America. (C.S.A.)

Recommended Readings 

Ancestor  Dr. Lerone Bennett,Jr.. Forced Into Glory:Abraham  Lincoln's White Dream.

Kiarri T.-H. Cheatwood.

To Save the Blood of Black Babies. 

Dr.Claud Anderson. A Black History Reader: 101 Questions You Never Thought You'd Ask.

Douglas A. Blackmon. Slavery by Another Name:The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. 

Michelle Alexander. The New Jim Crow; Mass Incarceration  in the  Age of  Color-Blindness

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