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By June 16, 2011

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Lincoln Freeing the Slaves, 1862

June 19 is Juneteenth, a celebration of the emancipation of American slaves that originated in Texas. What are some ways Juneteenth is celebrated? People hold cook-outs, prayer services, parades, and even have readings of the Emancipation Proclamation. Above is an 1862 artist's rendering of Abraham Lincoln announcing the Emancipation--here we see Lincoln presented as the "Great Emancipator." But was Lincoln's role in freeing the slaves overstated?

Historians like Ira Berlin offer a resounding "yes." The slaves themselves made slavery the issue the Civil War would decide. By flooding the Union army's lines, by offering their service to their nation--they made it impossible for Lincoln to pretend the war was merely being fought to preserve the Union. So, Juneteenth can be thought of as a celebration of the many African Americans who risked their lives to escape slavery during the war to make their cause known to the Union.


July 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm
(1) ben says:

Believe it or not, I was 53 years old before I heard the word ‘Juneteen’ and its meaning.

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