Where in the U.S. did slavery still exist after Juneteenth?

Posted June 19th, 2016 by
Category: History Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Today, June 19, is widely celebrated as Juneteenth, which marks the day in 1865 when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing word that the Civil War had ended and the enslaved population was free. This is a joyous occasion, one which acknowledges the horrors of slavery, but commemorates the jubilation with which the first word of freedom was celebrated at many  times, and in many places, throughout the United States.

Yet at the time of this first Juneteenth, slavery had not yet been abolished throughout the United States, even by law. That momentous occasion wouldn’t occur until ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, more than half a year after the surrender of Confederate forces as Appomattox.

Where in the U.S. did slavery manage to persist after Juneteenth had come and gone? The answer, and even the sheer number of places, may surprise you.

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Remember, Memorial Day was started by African-Americans

Posted May 27th, 2016 by
Category: History Tags: , , , ,

In honor of Memorial Day, we are reposting this blog entry from 2013, which recounts how the first Memorial Day was celebrated by free black troops and civilians in Charleston, S.C. at the end of the Civil War.

St. Michael's Church, Charleston, South Carolina, 1865As we pause today to remember the nation’s war dead, it’s worth remembering that Memorial Day was first celebrated by black Union troops and free black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina at the end of the Civil War.

As historian David Blight recounts in his masterful book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001), Charleston was occupied by Union troops in the spring of 1865, most white residents having fled the city. In this atmosphere, the free black population of Charleston, primarily consisting of former slaves, engaged in a series of celebrations to proclaim the meaning of the war as they saw it.

The height of these celebrations took place on May 1, 1865, on the grounds of the former Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, an elite facility which had been used by the Confederates as a gruesome prison and mass grave for unlucky Union soldiers. Following the evacuation of Charleston, black laborers had dug up the remains of Union soldiers, given them a proper burial, and built the trappings of a respectful cemetery around the site to memorialize their sacrifice.

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Congress finally votes to abolish slavery, 150 years ago today

Posted January 31st, 2015 by
Category: History Tags: , , , , ,

Passage of the Thirteenth AmendmentToday, January 31, 2015, marks the 150th anniversary of the narrow but momentous decision, by a bitterly divided U.S. Congress at the end of the Civil War, to abolish slavery throughout the United States.

Why the Union began to take emancipation seriously

In January 1865, the Civil War was in its final days. Yet many in the Union were still opposed to emancipation.

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Black soldiers achieved something “virtually unheard of” at the Battle of Nashville in 1864

Posted December 16th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , ,

The Battle of NashvilleToday marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville, which, between December 16-17, 1864, broke General John Bell Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee and left Tennessee in Union hands for the duration of the war.

In a military sense, the 13th United States Colored Troops, despite their bravery and sacrifice on the first day of the battle, “contributed nothing to the Union victory.” Yet this African American regiment achieved something “virtually unheard of in the war” with their courage and sacrifice: they “not only earned the awed respect of white Union troops who witnessed their efforts; they also garnered heartfelt praise from an opposing Confederate general in his official report.”

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50th anniversary of King’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Posted December 10th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , , , ,

Text of King's Nobel Prize acceptance speechToday is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 1964. He was, at the time, the youngest person ever to receive that honor.

As the nation is embroiled in protests over the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson and Staten Island, let us pause for a moment to consider how much, and how little, has changed in half a century:

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice.

I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.

I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death.


Why did emancipation in Maryland, 150 years ago today, hardly matter?

Posted November 1st, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , ,
Letter from Annie Davis to President Lincoln, 1864

Letter from Annie Davis to President Lincoln, 1864

Today is the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Maryland.

This occasion mattered greatly, of course, to the 87,000 residents of Maryland who were still enslaved on November 1, 1864. This anniversary date also matters because the narrow passage of emancipation in Maryland furthered the gradual spread of emancipation elsewhere in the United States, including in the South, where the issue of emancipation had not yet been decided by Congress.

Nevertheless, in important ways, the reluctant abolition of slavery in Maryland scarcely mattered.

Pro-slavery attitudes and laws in Maryland

In 1864, when Maryland finally abolished slavery, the state had been on the Union side of the Civil War for three long years. Nevertheless, Maryland was a border state: slavery was common in the state, and the culture of slave-owning was widespread. Among the white population, therefore, loyalties had been deeply divided over the slavery question and secession all along.

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