Slavery officially ended in the United States on December 6, 1865, after the 13th amendment to the constitution was passed and ratified, abolishing slavery across the nation. The 13th amendment states that nobody should work as a slave or involuntary servant, except if forced by law as punishment for a crime committed. This amendment was passed after the Civil War.
Slave Trade in the U.S.
Almost sixty years before slavery came to an end in the U.S., international slave trade was already prohibited. Internal slave-trading however still happened regularly within the U.S. borders, and the slave population peaked at four million people before slavery was abolished.
Slavery – Emancipation Proclamation
Some people think that slavery ended with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in September 22, 1862, where he declared all slaves in the U.S. free, but this was only the first step. Only setting the slaves free wouldn’t help, slavery as a whole needed to be made illegal and prosecutable by law. For this reason the 13th amendment was passed.
Juneteenth – The Slaves Who Didn’t Know They Were Free
Although slavery was technically made illegal and slaves were legally set free by Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation, there were still plenty of slaves that didn’t know that they had been set free. Texas was fairly isolated and news travelled slowly. Texas was also one of the rebel Southern States, where President Lincoln’s authority was not always recognized and there was not a big enough Union presence to enforce the law. When Major General Gordon Granger then arrived in Galveston with his troops on June 19th, 1865, the news that the war was over and the slaves were set free became a huge celebration, even though it was over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Today, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. which people still celebrate today.
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