What will future revisions of history say about the past?

Published 8:39 am Monday, June 22, 2020

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To the Editor,

The June 17 front page article regarding Juneteenth contained what is quickly becoming a common error regarding the Emancipation Proclamation and when slavery ended in the U.S. In late 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary Proclamation that called on Confederate states to rejoin the Union by Jan 1, 1863, or their slaves would be freed. The final Proclamation was signed on Jan 1, 1863, and it basically declared that slaves in Confederate states — not under Union control — were freed. Slaves in areas of the South that had been occupied by the North and slaves in the United States were not freed. Obviously, slaves not under Union control were not freed at that time.

Even though it did not free anyone when issued, the Proclamation was an important document, and it marked a turning point in the war. Prior to this time, from the U.S. standpoint, it had been basically about preserving the Union. Lincoln had been very explicit regarding his goals. Now there was an added aspect of freeing the slaves, which was not only supported by many Americans but was also intended to keep Britain and France (which no longer allowed slavery) from joining the war on the Confederate side. It was also thought that it would cause slave rebellions, though that was not a major issue. Freed slaves were now permitted to serve in the Union Army.

Slavery in the United States did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation, it did not end at Appomattox, nor did it end in Galveston on June 19, 1865. Legal slavery in the U.S. ended with the adoption of the 13th Amendment on Dec. 18, 1865. Of course, that was not the end of slavery. Brazil ended slavery in 1888 and was the last western country to do so. There are, unfortunately, still places where slavery occurs.

That is history as I know it today. Sadly, no one knows what “history” will say about the past in future revisions.


Danny M. Clayton