Juneteenth is now a federal, state, county, and city holiday.
The commemoration of June 19th annually is recognized as the day the slaves were completely freed. Amazingly, despite President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which took effect on January 1, 1863, announcing that “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State… shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free,” Texas did not free slaves from captivity until Union Forces entered the state.
On June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Executive Order by President Lincoln, slaves were freed.
How in the world? How could a state ignore such a law that corrected the horror of treating another human as property?
Political opponents of President Lincoln, who sought wealth by using African American individuals as beasts of burden, ignored the law and many moved to Texas. The distance from the Union soldiers’ reach who were tasked to enforce laws and the Reconstruction Amendments that resulted from the Lincoln Era, such as the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments outlawing slavery, recognizing men and women born in America as citizens, and giving free men the right to vote regardless of their race or previous involuntary servitude allowed the application of the laws of Liberty.
Geography wasn’t the singular reason that this was unfortunately a factor that permitted the delay in freeing enslaved individuals. The lack of communications beyond newspapers and pamphlets of the day that served as the method of informing the public beyond word of mouth.
And the fact that this critical information was available in written form for more than two years, which resulted in the liberation of about three million enslaved individuals exposes another contributing factor to the delay.
Slaves were denied access to educational freedom. Most African Americans were not able to read or write. Only about 10% of the entire African American population was literate prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, according to The Journal of the Civil War. According to the Smithsonian, states opposing President Lincoln even had laws in place against teaching slaves to read. Tennessee was not among those states.
The tragedy of illiteracy kept available information about the current events of the days and times from those in Texas enslaved for more than two years longer.
Literacy is part of freedom because of the empowerment given to an individual to take the God-given talents, skills, potential, and add the determination of hard work to consume information, make individual decisions, have the ability to earn and save wealth, and create a generational legacy for one’s own family.
As Juneteenth approaches, the history of Texas slave owners being able to keep individuals as property for over two years longer than the law permitted will be the reason for the commemoration. Don’t miss the fact that it was freedom delayed because literacy was denied.
Make this the Juneteenth that kicks off a commitment to read, write, and empower one’s own potential by pursuing educational, financial, and personal freedom through literacy.