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.