Not all enslaved black people in Texas were freed on June 19
Despite the clear instructions of General Order No. 3 and the announcement that day by Granger’s men that “the people of Texas are informed that, pursuant to a proclamation of the Executive Branch of the United States, all slaves are free”, every black person slave in Texas was freed with this proclamation.
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Slavers across the state resisted the general’s order, hiding the news from enslaved blacks. Many blacks were forced to continue working under the oppression of ruthless slavers and unscrupulous plantation owners.
Last year, President Biden signed a bill recognizing June 19 as a federal holiday. On Thursday, before the holiday, rights activists erected a 150ft Pan-African flag garden on the Ellipse, south of the White House, demanding that Biden establish a commission to study reparations. “Making Juneteenth a holiday is not enough,” one banner said.
The June 19, 1865 announcement did not end slavery in Texas. The barbaric institution continued in other forms and under other names, according to historians.
“There was near universal agreement from the statements of slaves that many Texas slave owners held back from making the announcement,” said historian CR Gibbs. “They wanted another harvest.”
Many black Texans didn’t hear the news until 1866. “The slave owners resorted to trickery. They delayed. They postponed. It was money,” said Gibbs, author of “Black, Copper & Bright: The District of Columbia’s Black Civil War Regiment.” “They wanted to continue to squeeze every last drop of sweat out of slavery.”
Even after Granger’s order, blacks remained in “such a tight spot in Texas,” Gibbs said. “You have the collapse of the Confederate government. And traveling bands of men who wanted to go back. A Union officer once said, “If I had a choice between hell and Texas, I’d live in hell and rent Texas.” It was just so bad in Texas.
During the Civil War, Texas was a haven for slavers fleeing emancipation. “Slaveholders in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana drove their ‘Negroes’ from Arkansas, Louisiana, and other parts of the states into Texas because the U.S. military had no not reach Texas,” said W. Marvin Dulaney, a retired University of Texas-Arlington historian and president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
She sued her slaver for repairs and won. His descendants never knew.
After Granger’s order, the Union army literally had to cross Texas to enforce the order and free the enslaved blacks. In some cases, slavers killed enslaved black people rather than allow them their freedom.
“Texans were so angry that African Americans were going free, they literally carried out a pogrom,” Dulaney said, quoting a speech by Gallaudet University history professor Barry A. Crouch. “They killed up to 2,500 people. They were just outright murdered all over the state.
Violence increased against African Americans between 1865 and 1868, Dulaney said. In some cases, enslaved black people in Texas were shot by bloodhounds or shot rather than freed from bondage. “It takes almost over a year for the Union Army to literally cross the state and free African Americans from slavery,” Dulaney said.
Slavery officially ended in the United States on December 6, 1865, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which stated: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime the party of which shall have been duly doomed, will not exist in the United States.”
This “exception clause” created a loophole, allowing slavery to continue in another form and allowing Southern officials to perpetuate conditions of slavery, including forced prison labor and convict hire.
Granger’s June 19 order contained a similar caveat. He declared that “all slaves are free” but that the relationship between “former masters and slaves” should become “one between employer and hired labour”. He continued: “Freedmen are advised to stay in their present homes and work for pay. They are informed that they will not be allowed to congregate at military posts; and that they will not be sustained in idleness either there or elsewhere.
This last line, historians say, paved the way for the continuation of slavery through convict rentals and “black code” laws that would restrict black freedom.
“Granger was warning them about idleness,” Dulaney said. “This order would lead to the creation of vagrancy laws and black codes that would be used against black people, forcing many of them into forced labor without pay.”
The sharecropping system and laws prohibiting blacks from hunting and fishing also prevented blacks from feeding themselves and forced them to work for whites.
“You had to sign an employment contract at the start of each year or you could be leased to a plantation,” Dulaney said. “In many cases, it was like being sold. The owners would have control over you. It was like being a slave.
The James Madison plantation has sworn to share power with black descendants. Then things exploded.
Some slavers resisted the emancipation order by fleeing – taking their enslaved laborers south to Cuba and Brazil, where slavery had not been outlawed. The kidnapping of blacks out of the country scared those who were still in precarious situations under the control of their former slaveholders – without protection from Union troops.
Frederick Douglass’ brother Perry Downs, who was enslaved in Texas, said he heard his slaver say he would run his “property” out of Texas.
No one knows how many enslaved black people were driven further south by slavers to avoid freeing them. “There were an unknown number of black people being taken out of the United States to places where there was still slavery,” Gibbs said.
Slavery was not abolished in Cuba until 1886. Brazil became the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery in 1888.
To this day, descendants of the Confederates who led enslaved blacks to Brazil celebrate with festivals in the cities of Americana and Santa Bárbara d’Oeste, celebrating “the Confederate States of America” with displays and Confederate flag dances.
In the United States, as communities prepare for June 19 celebrations, historians say, revelers should also pause in the grim acknowledgment that the hardships of involuntary labor and racial terror against black people have continued. long after Granger stood on the steps of the Galveston courthouse reading the famous, long-awaited release order.
“June 19 should be celebrated to recognize the symbolic emancipation of African Americans from slavery” in Texas, Dulaney said. “Let’s celebrate. But also realize that it took much longer and much more than an order from a Union Army general to end slavery in this country.