Juneteenth, or June 19, became a federal holiday in 2021. The holiday marks the date in 1865 when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and issued General Order Number 3, which ended the enslavement of Black people in Texas — a full 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
The Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the U.S., leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control and the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After Jan. 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. The proclamation announced the acceptance of Black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 Black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom. A lack of Union troops in the rebel state of Texas made the order difficult to enforce and the Civil War did not end until April 9, 1865.
Gen. Granger’s Order No. 3 stated, “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. 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.”
For many African Americans, June 19 is considered an independence day. Before 2021, nearly all 50 states recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation officially declaring it a federal holiday.
Rise and fall of the slave trade
The SlaveVoyages.org website is a collaborative digital initiative that compiles and makes publicly accessible records of the largest slave trades in history.
The Trans-Atlantic and Intra-American slave trade databases are the culmination of several decades of independent and collaborative research by scholars drawing upon data in libraries and archives around the Atlantic world.
The National Endowment for the Humanities was the principal sponsor of this work carried out originally at Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, the University of California at Irvine, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. The Hutchins Center of Harvard University has also provided support. The website is currently hosted at Rice University.
You can see more maps here.
The public can search the records at slavevoyages.org to learn about the broad origins and forced relocations of more than 12 million African people who were sent across the Atlantic in slave ships and hundreds of thousands more who were trafficked within the Americas. The site explores where they were taken, the numerous rebellions that occurred, the horrific loss of life during the voyages and the identities and nationalities of the perpetrators.
Key dates in the trans-Atlantic trade in slaves from Africa and its abolition:
- 1444 – First public sale of African slaves in Lagos, Portugal.
- 1482 – Portuguese start building first permanent slave trading post at Elmina, Gold Coast, now Ghana.
- 1510 – First slaves arrive in the Spanish colonies of South America, having traveled via Spain.
- 1518 – First direct shipment of slaves from Africa to the Americas.
- 1777 – State of Vermont, an independent republic after the American Revolution, becomes first sovereign state to abolish slavery.
- 1780s – Trans-Atlantic slave trade reaches peak.
- 1787 – The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade founded in Britain by Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson.
- 1792 – Denmark bans import of slaves to its West Indies colonies, although the law only took effect from 1803.
- 1807 – Britain passes Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, outlawing British Atlantic slave trade.
- 1808 – Britain places a naval squadron off the West African coast to enforce the ban on slave trading.
- 1811 – Spain abolishes slavery, including in its colonies, though Cuba rejects ban and continues to deal in slaves.
- 1813 – Sweden bans slave trading.
- 1814 – Netherlands bans slave trading.
- 1817 – France bans slave trading, but ban not effective until 1826; Great Britain and Spain sign a treaty prohibiting the slave trade.
- 1833 – Britain passes Abolition of Slavery Act, ordering gradual abolition in all British colonies.
- 1819 – Portugal abolishes slave trade north of the equator.
- 1823 – Britain’s Anti-Slavery Society formed. Members include William Wilberforce.
- 1846 – Danish governor abolishes slavery Danish West Indies.
- 1848 – France abolishes slavery.
- 1851 – Brazil abolishes slave trading.
- 1858 – Portugal abolishes slavery in its colonies, although all slaves are subject to a 20-year apprenticeship.
- 1861 – Netherlands abolishes slavery in Dutch Caribbean colonies.
- 1862 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaims emancipation of slaves with effect from Jan. 1, 1863; 13th Amendment of U.S. Constitution follows in 1865 banning slavery.
- 1886 – Slavery is abolished in Cuba.
- 1888 – Brazil abolishes slavery.
- 1926 – League of Nations adopts Slavery Convention abolishing slavery.
Sources: slavevoyages.org, History.com, The Associated Press, National Archives, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human, Anti-Slavery Society, UC Irvine, Smithsonian, African American History and Culture Museum
The top images is from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and is an illustration of people reading the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
Source: Orange County Register