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Vermont Abolishes Slavery - History

Vermont Abolishes Slavery - History


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On July 2, 1777, Vermont became the first state to abolish slavery. Between 1777 and 1804, all states north of the Delaware voted to gradually abolish slavery.

CHRONOLOGY-Who banned slavery when?

(Reuters) - Britain marks 200 years on March 25 since it enacted a law banning the trans-Atlantic slave trade, although full abolition of slavery did not follow for another generation.

Following are some key dates in the trans-atlantic trade in slaves from Africa and its abolition.

1444 - First public sale of African slaves in Lagos, Portugal

1482 - Portuguese start building first permanent slave trading post at Elmina, Gold Coast, now Ghana

1510 - First slaves arrive in the Spanish colonies of South America, having travelled via Spain

1518 - First direct shipment of slaves from Africa to the Americas

1777 - State of Vermont, an independent Republic after the American Revolution, becomes first sovereign state to abolish slavery

1780s - Trans-Atlantic slave trade reaches peak

1787 - The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade founded in Britain by Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson

1792 - Denmark bans import of slaves to its West Indies colonies, although the law only took effect from 1803.

1807 - Britain passes Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, outlawing British Atlantic slave trade.

- United States passes legislation banning the slave trade, effective from start of 1808.

1811 - Spain abolishes slavery, including in its colonies, though Cuba rejects ban and continues to deal in slaves.

1813 - Sweden bans slave trading

1814 - Netherlands bans slave trading

1817 - France bans slave trading, but ban not effective until 1826

1833 - Britain passes Abolition of Slavery Act, ordering gradual abolition of slavery in all British colonies. Plantation owners in the West Indies receive 20 million pounds in compensation

- Great Britain and Spain sign a treaty prohibiting the slave trade

1819 - Portugal abolishes slave trade north of the equator

- Britain places a naval squadron off the West African coast to enforce the ban on slave trading

1823 - Britain’s Anti-Slavery Society formed. Members include William Wilberforce

1846 - Danish governor proclaims emancipation of slaves in Danish West Indies, abolishing slavery

1848 - France abolishes slavery

1851 - Brazil abolishes slave trading

1858 - Portugal abolishes slavery in its colonies, although all slaves are subject to a 20-year apprenticeship

1861 - Netherlands abolishes slavery in Dutch Caribbean colonies

1862 - U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaims emancipation of slaves with effect from January 1, 1863 13th Amendment of U.S. Constitution follows in 1865 banning slavery

1886 - Slavery is abolished in Cuba

1888 - Brazil abolishes slavery

1926 - League of Nations adopts Slavery Convention abolishing slavery

1948 - United Nations General Assembly adopts Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including article stating “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Sources: Durham University: here Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: here Anti-Slavery Society: here


The Push to Remove Any Mention of Slavery From Vermont’s Constitution

The state prides itself on its abolitionist history. But its identity has been shaken by recent racist incidents.

V ermont’s constitution is the hardest in the nation to amend. But in the coming years, state lawmakers want to alter it for a highly unusual purpose: to get rid of the language that abolished slavery.

The effort is part of a broader push on the part of legislators to solidify Vermont’s self-image as a bastion of liberal values and personal freedoms, which has been tested by recent racist incidents in the state. Advocates for the clause’s removal say it’s simply not necessary anymore, and that its inclusion in the founding document is insulting to African Americans in Vermont. The current raft of proposed amendments—the slavery provision, an expansive equal-protection measure, a constitutional guarantee for abortion rights, and a guarantee of privacy—could hit the ballot as soon as the 2022 midterm elections.

While the abortion-related measures are high profile, the slavery and equal-protection measures go to the core of the state’s identity. Vermont, which was 95 percent white at the time of the last census, has been known for its racial liberalism since becoming the first place in the Western Hemisphere, in 1777, to outlaw slavery. But the state remains monochromatic and, sometimes, racially fraught. “Vermont has long been accused, especially in other parts of the country, of being tolerant without a lot of diversity … to bump up against that tolerance,” says Kesha Ram, a former state representative and former candidate for lieutenant governor, who is one of only a few people of color ever elected to the state’s legislature.

As for the slavery passage, “we want it out completely,” says Tabitha Pohl-Moore, the acting director of the NAACP’s Vermont branch and the president of the Rutland-area chapter, arguing that opponents of removal are propagating the belief that “white folks think that they know better what we need than we do.”

The racial-equity measures function as a signal to Vermonters, advocates say, that bigotry is anathema to the state’s values. Cementing equal protection in the state constitution in particular gained a renewed urgency among lawmakers this past summer, when Kiah Morris, a two-term state representative from Bennington and the only black woman in the legislature, resigned following a torrent of racist harassment and threats from white supremacists, most notably another Bennington resident. (Morris could not be reached for comment.) The targeting of Morris was one of several incidents in the recent past that have shaken the state’s self-image. A year prior, the mayor of Rutland, the state’s third-largest city, lost reelection after his plan to resettle 100 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the community drew public ire. Last summer, a diverse group of campers was targeted in at least three incidents of racist harassment in the resort town of Stowe.

“It’s time to recognize that there are groups that are discriminated against, whether implicitly or explicitly,” says state Senator Virginia Lyons, the lead sponsor of the equal-protection amendment. “Our society as a democracy will only last as long as these groups are supported.”

Taken together, the amendments pose complex questions for the state’s lawmakers: not only about what sort of place Vermont is, but also about which issues should be addressed in a state’s most important legal document.

T he slavery provision is the least practically consequential of the amendments—removing the language would have no effect whatsoever on day-to-day legal proceedings in the state. Yet the issue is the most historically and ideologically fraught of all the amendments working their way toward the ballot. The amendment’s backers see Vermont as a place on the cutting edge of social equity, where the constitution changes with the times and yesterday’s radicalism is today’s foregone conclusion. The other faction sees the work of the past—the state’s abolition movement and groundbreaking legal codes that allowed men who did not hold property to vote—as the essential building block of today’s Green Mountain State. Vermonters in this camp believe that the abolition language needs to stay in the constitution—that when the history of Vermont’s radical past is not visible in the state’s law, something of its spirit may be lost.

When the earliest version of the state’s constitution was written, in July 1777, Vermont was an independent republic tenuously allied with the year-old United States. In the document, Vermont’s founders were attempting to portray themselves as learned, reasonable, and radical, says Gary Shattuck, a former assistant U.S. attorney and a historian who studies the state’s formation. Part of that radicalism was an action against slavery: Since the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, no country had banned the practice—and Vermont became the first to do so.

But the reality of abolition was murkier. In early Vermont, the ban—along with most of the new constitution—was unevenly enforced. And the language is ambiguous: Designed to allow apprenticeships and indentured servitude, both relatively common 18th-century practices, the document explicitly banned only slavery for adults. The pertinent section in the current document—essentially identical in the 1777 version—reads:

That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety therefore no person born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave or apprentice, after arriving to the age of twenty-one years, unless bound by the person's own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.

Under the amendment as first proposed, which was co-sponsored by 25 state senators, that entire passage would be cut. The current language “allow[s] slavery under certain conditions, and that’s quite simply wrong,” says Democratic Senator Debbie Ingram, who proposed the measure. “I think we, as white people who are privileged, we ought to go the extra mile and understand what it would be like to have this provision as the very first sentence in our constitution. It’s degrading and it’s exclusionary. And we need to make sure that this is righted.” Getting rid of the entire passage is the only option, Pohl-Moore says.

But the idea that slavery is countenanced in any way by the current language is disputed by some scholars. The proposed amendment, says the Vermont Law School professor Peter Teachout, is the product of a misreading of 18th-century language. “It’s absolutely clear, and the Vermont Supreme Court at that time made clear, that the Vermont Constitution banned slavery,” he says. “It didn’t matter if it was adult slavery or child slavery.”

State pride is also on the line. Vermont’s early abolition of slavery is much-vaunted within the state. “It’s something of which all Vermonters are proud, given our leadership on racial equality back when other places didn’t recognize that,” says Jim Douglas, the Republican former governor who left office in 2011. The constitution of 1777 was an aspirational and visionary document when first adopted, according to Rob Williams, a lecturer at the University of Vermont and the publisher of the secessionist site Vermont Independent. Removing the slavery section, he says, would redact one of the state’s proudest achievements.

But there’s a simple reason to cut the existing language, according to Tim Ashe, the state Senate’s president pro tempore and a leading co-sponsor of three of the four proposed amendments. Doing so would underscore to people of color that they are equal and valued within the state’s society—a message “that should triumph over preserving the legacy of state leaders from a couple of hundred years ago,” Ashe says.

Still, both Ashe and Joe Benning, the Senate minority leader, believe in the possibility of a compromise solution in which the ambiguous language is removed while the prohibition of slavery is maintained—new language that would likely emerge as the measure is debated in the legislature. Indeed, Teachout and his allies were able to persuade the state Senate to move forward with an amendment to the amendment that removes wording that could have allowed indentured servitude or unpaid apprenticeships. That version has advanced to the legislature’s lower house.

But any solution that leaves a part of the clause intact is unacceptable, Pohl-Moore says. “If it’s about historical preservation, then put the original constitution in a museum somewhere and go look at it. Nobody is going to forget slavery except the people who benefited from it,” she told me. “White nostalgia is not my problem and it should not be the burden of people of color to have to deal with this parsing out and this weird playing with language.”

Whatever the outcome, rewriting a sentence that has been essentially unmodified for 242 years is a challenge, and some see the Senate leadership’s efforts as a sort of lawmaking Beeldenstorm. “It just seems like they’re trying to rewrite the Gospel,” says Paul Gillies, an attorney and a constitutional historian based in Montpelier. “That’s one of the things that Vermont is most famous for: being the first government to abolish slavery.”

T he attempt to amend Vermont’s constitution is itself notable, whatever the amendments’ contents. The document, at 8,295 words, is the shortest in the nation (Alabama’s, the longest, is about 42 times lengthier). It’s one of the oldest, materially unchanged longer than any other. And it’s “the most difficult state constitution in the country to amend,” says Eric Davis, a political-science professor emeritus at Middlebury College. That’s due in part to a law that stipulates amendments may only be introduced every three to four years, and requires a cooling-off period between two votes on the amendments in each chamber of the legislature. Only after that process is complete do voters get to weigh in. The new amendments are at various stages of their life span, though most are expected to be approved by lawmakers.*

Perhaps because of this onerous process, Vermont’s constitution is svelte. Amendments are judged by voters and legislators alike on whether they fulfill basic needs and structural concerns, rather than whether they legislate any specific issue, says Richard Cassidy, an attorney who studies the state’s constitution. That has meant the document is much more generalized than many of its peers, some of which have hundreds of amendments and concern themselves with such relative banalities as the government of specific municipalities. Teachout likened the document to Dan & Whits, a general store in Norwich, a town of 3,000 on the Connecticut River. The store’s motto: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!”

The most recent amendments to Vermont’s constitution have not been sweeping, dealing with items such as judicial retirement and the setting of bail. But this cycle is different. If any one of the new measures is approved by the state’s electorate, it would be the first major socially progressive amendment to pass since voters approved suffrage for women in 1924, a symbolic measure after the federal Constitution took the same step in 1920.

For the state senators I spoke with, the quadrennial chance to amend the state’s highest document is a moment of gravity—and a chance to cement what they believe are the state’s true values. “The desire in this day and age was to take a harder look and to make that very clear that all segments of society are protected, not just one segment of society,” says Benning, the Senate minority leader. Senator Lyons voiced a similar sentiment: “This is the time to reconsider who we are—constitutionally.”

* A previous version of this story reported that the equal-protection measure has passed the Vermont legislature and will be on the ballot in 2022. It's currently in committee and hasn't yet passed either chamber. The story has also been updated to clarify when and how constitutional amendments are approved in the legislature.


Contents

During classical antiquity, several prominent societies in Europe and the ancient Near East regulated enslavement for debt and the related but distinct practice of debt bondage (in which a creditor could extract compulsory labor from a debtor in repayment of their debt, but the debtor was not formally enslaved and was not subject to all the conditions of chattel slavery, such as being perpetually owned, sellable on the open market, or stripped of kinship).

Reforms listed below such as the laws of Solon in Athens, the Lex Poetelia Papiria in Republican Rome, or rules set forth in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Deuteronomy generally regulated the supply of slaves and debt-servants by forbidding or regulating the bondage of certain privileged groups (thus, the Roman reforms protected Roman citizens, the Athenian reforms protected Athenian citizens, and the rules in Deuteronomy guaranteed freedom to a Hebrew after a fixed duration of servitude), but none abolished slavery, and even what protections were instituted did not apply to foreigners or noncitizen subjects.

Date Jurisdiction Description
Early sixth century BC Polis of Athens The Athenian lawgiver Solon abolishes debt slavery of Athenian citizens and frees all Athenian citizens who had formerly been enslaved. [2] [3] Athenian chattel slavery continued to be practiced, and the loss of debt-bondage as a competing source of compulsory labor may even have spurred slavery to become more important in the Athenian economy henceforth. [4]
326 BC Roman Republic Lex Poetelia Papiria abolishes Nexum contracts, a form of pledging the debt bondage of poor Roman citizens to wealthy creditors as security for loans. Chattel slavery was not abolished, and Roman slavery would continue to flourish for centuries.
9–12 AD Xin Dynasty Wang Mang, first and only emperor of the Xin Dynasty, usurped the Chinese throne and instituted a series of sweeping reforms, including the abolition of slavery and radical land reform from 9–12 A.D. [5] [6] However, this and other reforms turned popular and elite sentiment against Wang Mang, and slavery was reinstituted after he was killed by an angry mob in 23 A.D.

Date Jurisdiction Description
1503 Castile Native Americans allowed to travel to Spain only on their own free will. [31]
1512 The Laws of Burgos establish limits to the treatment of natives in the Encomienda system.
1518 Spain Decree of Charles V establishing the importation of African slaves to the Americas, under monopoly of Laurent de Gouvenot, in an attempt to discourage enslavement of Native Americans.
1528 Charles V forbids the transportation of Native Americans to Europe, even on their own will, in an effort to curtail their enslavement. Encomiendas are banned from collecting tribute in gold with the reasoning that Natives were selling their children to get it. [32]
1530 Outright slavery of Native Americans under any circumstance is banned. However, forced labor under the Encomienda continues.
1536 The Welser family is dispossessed of the Asiento monopoly (granted in 1528) following complaints about their treatment of Native American workers in Venezuela.
1537 New World Pope Paul III forbids slavery of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and any other population to be discovered, establishing their right to freedom and property (Sublimis Deus). [33]
1542 Spain The New Laws ban slave raiding in the Americas and abolish the slavery of natives, but replace it with other systems of forced labor like the repartimiento. Slavery of Black Africans continues. [20] New limits are imposed to the Encomienda.
1549 Encomiendas banned from using forced labor.
1550-1551 Valladolid Debate on the innate rights of indigenous peoples of the Americas.
1552 Bartolomé de las Casas, "the first to expose the oppression of indigenous peoples by Europeans in the Americas and to call for the abolition of slavery there." [34]
1570 Portugal King Sebastian of Portugal bans the enslavement of Native Americans under Portuguese rule, allowing only the enslavement of hostile ones. This law was highly influenced by the Society of Jesus, which had missionaries in direct contact with Brazilian tribes.
1574 England Last remaining serfs emancipated by Elizabeth I. [21]
Philippines Slavery abolished by royal decree. [35]
1588 Lithuania The Third Statute of Lithuania abolishes slavery. [36]
1590 Japan Toyotomi Hideyoshi bans slavery except as punishment for criminals. [37]
1595 Portugal Trade of Chinese slaves banned. [38]
1602 England The Clifton Star Chamber Case set a precedent, that impressing / enslaving children to serve as actors was illegal.
1609 Spain The Moriscos, many of whom are serfs, are expelled from Peninsular Spain unless they become slaves voluntarily (known as moros cortados, "cut Moors") However, a large proportion avoid expulsion or manage to return. [39]
1624 Portugal Enslavement of Chinese banned. [40] [41]
1649 Russia The sale of Russian slaves to Muslims is banned. [42]
1652 Providence Plantations Roger Williams and Samuel Gorton work to pass legislation abolishing slavery in Providence Plantations, the first attempt of its kind in North America. It does not go into effect. [43]
1677 Maratha Empire Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj banned, freed and stopped import and export of all slaves under his Empire. [44]
1679 Russia Feodor III converts all Russian field slaves into serfs. [45] [46]
1683 Spanish Chile Slavery of Mapuche prisoners of war abolished. [47]
1687 Spanish Florida Fugitive slaves from the Thirteen Colonies granted freedom in return for conversion to Catholicism and four years of military service.
1688 Pennsylvania The Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery is the first religious petition against African slavery in what would become the United States.
Date Jurisdiction Description
1703 Ottoman Empire The forced conversion and induction of Christian children into the army known as Devshirme or "Blood Tax", is abolished.
1706 England In Smith v. Browne & Cooper, Sir John Holt, Lord Chief Justice of England, rules that "as soon as a Negro comes into England, he becomes free. One may be a villein in England, but not a slave." [48] [49]
1711-1712 Imereti Slave trade banned by Mamia I of Imereti.
1712 Spain Moros cortados expelled. [50]
1715 North Carolina
South Carolina
Native American slave trade in the American Southeast reduces with the outbreak of the Yamasee War.
1723 Russia Peter the Great converts all house slaves into house serfs, effectively making slavery illegal in Russia.
1723–1730 Qing Dynasty The Yongzheng emancipation seeks to free all slaves to strengthen the autocratic ruler through a kind of social leveling that creates an undifferentiated class of free subjects under the throne. Although these new regulations freed the vast majority of slaves, wealthy families continued to use slave labor into the twentieth century. [25]
1732 Georgia Province established without African slavery in sharp contrast to neighboring colony of Carolina. In 1738, James Oglethorpe warns against changing that policy, which would "occasion the misery of thousands in Africa." [51] Native American slavery is legal throughout Georgia, however, and African slavery is later introduced in 1749.
1738 Spanish Florida Fort Mosé, the first legal settlement of free blacks in what is today the United States, is established. Word of the settlement sparks the Stono Rebellion in Carolina the following year.
1761 Portugal The Marquis of Pombal bans the importation of slaves to metropolitan Portugal. [52]
1766 Spain Muhammad III of Morocco purchases the freedom of all Muslim slaves in Seville, Cádiz, and Barcelona. [53]
1770 Circassia The Circassians of the Abdzakh region started a great revolution in Circassian territory in 1770. Classes such as slaves, nobles and princes were completely abolished. The Abdzakh Revolution coincides with the French Revolution. While many French nobles took refuge in Russia, some of the Circassian nobles took the same path and took refuge in Russia. [54]
1772 England Somersett's case rules that no slave can be forcibly removed from England. This case was generally taken at the time to have decided that the condition of slavery did not exist under English law in England and Wales, and resulted in the emancipation of the remaining ten to fourteen thousand slaves or possible slaves in England and Wales, who were mostly domestic servants. [55]
1773 Portugal A new decree by the Marquis of Pombal, signed by the king Dom José, emancipates fourth-generation slaves [52] and every child born to an enslaved mother after the decree was published. [56]
1774 East India Company Government of Bengal passed regulations 9 and 10 of 1774, prohibiting the trade in slaves without written deed, and the sale of anyone not already enslaved. [57]
1775 Virginia Dunmore's Proclamation promises freedom to slaves who desert the American revolutionaries and join the British Army as Black Loyalists.
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Abolition Society formed in Philadelphia, the first abolition society within the territory that is now the United States of America.
United States Atlantic slave trade banned or suspended in the United Colonies during the Revolutionary War. This was a continuation of the Thirteen Colonies' non-importation agreements against Britain, as an attempt to cut all economic ties with Britain during the war. [58]
1777 Madeira Slavery abolished. [59]
Vermont The Constitution of the Vermont Republic partially bans slavery, [59] freeing men over 21 and women older than 18 at the time of its passage. [60] The ban is not strongly enforced. [61] [62]
1778 Scotland Joseph Knight successfully argues that Scots law cannot support the status of slavery. [63]
1779 British America The Philipsburg Proclamation frees all slaves who desert the American rebels, regardless of their willingness to fight for the Crown.
1780 Pennsylvania An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery passed, freeing future children of slaves. Those born prior to the Act remain enslaved for life. The Act becomes a model for other Northern states. Last slaves freed 1847. [64]
1783 Russian Empire Slavery abolished in the recently annexed Crimean Khanate. [65]
Massachusetts Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules slavery unconstitutional, a decision based on the 1780 Massachusetts constitution. All slaves are immediately freed. [66]
Holy Roman Empire Joseph II abolishes slavery in Bukovina. [67]
New Hampshire Gradual abolition of slavery begins.
1784 Connecticut Gradual abolition of slavery, freeing future children of slaves, and later all slaves. [68]
Rhode Island Gradual abolition of slavery begins.
1786 New South Wales A policy of completely banning slavery is adopted by governor-designate Arthur Phillip for the soon-to-be established colony. [69]
1787 United States The United States in Congress Assembled passes the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, outlawing any new slavery in the Northwest Territories.
Sierra Leone Founded by Great Britain as a colony for emancipated slaves. [70]
Great Britain Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade founded in Great Britain. [59]
1788 Sir William Dolben's Act regulating the conditions on British slave ships enacted.
France Abolitionist Society of the Friends of the Blacks founded in Paris.
Denmark Limits imposed to serfdom under the Stavnsbånd system.
1789 France Last remaining seigneurial privileges over peasants abolished. [71]
1791 Poland-Lithuania The Constitution of May 3, 1791 introduced elements of political equality between townspeople and nobility, and placed the peasants under the protection of the government thus, it mitigated the worst abuses of serfdom.
1791 France Emancipation of second-generation slaves in the colonies. [53]
1792 Denmark-Norway Transatlantic slave trade declared illegal after 1803, though slavery continues in Danish colonies to 1848. [72]
1792 Saint Helena The importation of slaves to the island of Saint Helena was banned in 1792, but the phased emancipation of over 800 resident slaves did not take place until 1827, which was still some six years before the British parliament passed legislation to ban slavery in the colonies. [73]
1793 Saint-Domingue Commissioner Leger-Felicite Sonthonax abolishes slavery in the northern part of the colony. His colleague Etienne Polverel does the same in the rest of the territory in October.
Upper Canada Importation of slaves banned by the Act Against Slavery.
1794 France Slavery abolished in all French territories and possessions. [74]
United States The Slave Trade Act bans both American ships from participating in the slave trade and the export of slaves in foreign ships. [58]
Poland-Lithuania The Proclamation of Połaniec, issued during the Kościuszko Uprising, ultimately abolished serfdom in Poland, and granted substantial civil liberties to all peasants.
1798 Occupied Malta Slavery banned in the islands after their capture by French forces under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte. [75]
1799 New York Gradual emancipation act freeing the future children of slaves, and all slaves in 1827. [76]
Scotland The Colliers (Scotland) Act 1799 ends the legal servitude or slavery of coal and salt miners that had been established in 1606. [77]

Illustration from the book: The Black Man's Lament, Or, How to Make Sugar by Amelia Opie (London, 1826)

Date Jurisdiction Description
1800 Joseon State slavery banned in 1800. Private slavery continued until being banned in 1894.
1800 United States American citizens banned from investment and employment in the international slave trade in an additional Slave Trade Act.
1802 France Napoleon re-introduces slavery in sugarcane-growing colonies. [78]
Ohio State constitution abolishes slavery.
1803 Denmark-Norway Abolition of Danish participation in the transatlantic slave trade takes effect on January 1.
1804 New Jersey Slavery abolished. [79]
Haiti Haiti declares independence and abolishes slavery. [59]
1804–1813 Serbia Local slaves emancipated.
1805 United Kingdom A bill for abolition passes in House of Commons but is rejected in the House of Lords.
1806 United States In a message to Congress, Thomas Jefferson calls for criminalizing the international slave trade, asking Congress to "withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights . which the morality, the reputation, and the best of our country have long been eager to proscribe."
1807 International slave trade made a felony in Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves this act takes effect on 1 January 1808, the earliest date permitted under the Constitution. [80]
United Kingdom Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolishes slave trading throughout the British Empire. Captains fined £120 per slave transported. Patrols sent to the African coast to arrest slaving vessels. The West Africa Squadron (Royal Navy) is established to suppress slave trading by 1865, nearly 150,000 people freed by anti-slavery operations. [81]
Warsaw Constitution abolishes serfdom. [82]
Prussia The Stein-Hardenberg Reforms abolish serfdom. [82]
Michigan Territory Judge Augustus Woodward denies the return of two slaves owned by a man in Windsor, Upper Canada. Woodward declares that any man "coming into this Territory is by law of the land a freeman." [83]
1808 United States Importation and exportation of slaves made a crime. [84]
1810 New Spain Independence leader Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla proclaimed the abolition of slavery three months after the start of the Independence of Mexico from Spain.
1811 United Kingdom Slave trading made a felony punishable by transportation for both British subjects and foreigners.
Spain The Cortes of Cádiz abolish the last remaining seigneurial rights. [53]
British East India Company The Company issued regulations 10 of 1811, prohibiting the transport of slaves into Company territory, adding to the 1774 restrictions. [57]
Chile The First National Congress approves a proposal of Manuel de Salas that declares Freedom of Wombs, freeing the children of slaves born in Chilean territory, regardless of their parents' condition. The slave trade is banned and the slaves who stay for more than six months in Chilean territory are automatically declared freedmen.
1812 Spain The Cortes of Cádiz passes the Spanish Constitution of 1812, giving citizenship and equal rights to all residents in Spain and her territories, excluding slaves. During deliberations, Deputies José Miguel Guridi y Alcocer and Agustín Argüelles unsuccessfully argue for the abolition of slavery. [53]
1813 New Spain Independence leader José María Morelos y Pavón declares slavery abolished in Mexico in the documents Sentimientos de la Nación.
United Provinces Law of Wombs passed by the Assembly of Year XIII. Slaves born after 31 January 1813 will be granted freedom when they are married, or on their 16th birthday for women and 20th for men, and upon their manumission will be given land and tools to work it. [85]
1814 United Provinces After the occupation of Montevideo, all slaves born in modern Uruguayan territory are declared free.
Netherlands Slave trade abolished.
1815 France Napoleon abolishes the slave trade.
Portugal Slave trade banned north of the Equator in return for a £750,000 payment by Britain. [86]
Florida British withdrawing after the War of 1812 leave a fully armed fort in the hands of maroons, escaped slaves and their descendants, and their Seminole allies. Becomes known as Negro Fort.
United Kingdom
Portugal
Sweden-Norway
France
Austria
Russia
Spain
Prussia
The Congress of Vienna declares its opposition to slavery. [87]
1816 Estonia Serfdom abolished.
Florida Negro Fort destroyed in the Battle of Negro Fort by U.S. forces under the command of General Andrew Jackson.
Algeria Algiers bombarded by the British and Dutch navies in an attempt to end North African piracy and slave raiding in the Mediterranean. 3,000 slaves freed.
1817 Courland Serfdom abolished.
Spain Ferdinand VII signs a cedula banning the importation of slaves in Spanish possessions beginning in 1820, [53] in return for a £400,000 payment from Britain. [86] However, some slaves are still smuggled in after this date. Both slave ownership and internal commerce in slaves remained legal.
Venezuela Simon Bolivar calls for the abolition of slavery. [53]
New York 4 July 1827 set as date to free all ex-slaves from indenture. [88]
United Provinces Constitution supports the abolition of slavery, but does not ban it. [53]
1818 United Kingdom
Spain
Bilateral treaty abolishing the slave trade. [89]
United Kingdom
Portugal
Bilateral treaty abolishing the slave trade. [89]
France Slave trade banned.
United Kingdom
Netherlands
Bilateral treaty taking additional measures to enforce the 1814 ban on slave trading. [89]
1819 Livonia Serfdom abolished.
Upper Canada Attorney-General John Robinson declares all black residents free.
Hawaii The ancient Hawaiian kapu system is abolished during the ʻAi Noa, and with it the distinction between the kauwā slave class and the makaʻāinana (commoners). [90]
1820 United States The Compromise of 1820 bans slavery north of the 36º 30' line the Act to Protect the Commerce of the United States and Punish the Crime of Piracy is amended to consider the maritime slave trade as piracy, making it punishable with death.
Indiana The supreme court orders almost all slaves in the state to be freed in Polly v. Lasselle.
Spain The 1817 abolition of the slave trade takes effect. [91]
1821 Mexico The Plan of Iguala frees the slaves born in Mexico. [53]
United States
Spain
In accordance with Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, Florida becomes a territory of the United States. A main reason was Spain's inability or unwillingness to capture and return escaped slaves.
Peru Abolition of slave trade and implementation of a plan to gradually end slavery. [53]
Gran Colombia Emancipation for sons and daughters born to slave mothers, program for compensated emancipation set. [92]
1822 Haiti Jean Pierre Boyer annexes Spanish Haiti and abolishes slavery there.
Liberia Founded by the American Colonization Society as a colony for emancipated slaves.
Muscat and Oman
United Kingdom
First bilateral treaty limiting the slave trade in Zanzibar.
1823 Chile Slavery abolished. [59]
United Kingdom The Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions (Anti-Slavery Society) is founded.
Greece Prohibition of slavery is enshrined in the Greek Constitution of 1823, during the Greek War of Independence. [93]
1824 Mexico The new constitution effectively abolishes slavery.
Central America Slavery abolished.
1825 Uruguay Importation of slaves banned.
Haiti France, with warships at the ready, demanded Haiti compensate France for its loss of slaves and its slave colony
1827 United Kingdom
Sweden-Norway
Bilateral treaty abolishing the slave trade. [89]
New York Last vestiges of slavery abolished. Children born between 1799 and 1827 are indentured until age 25 (females) or age 28 (males). [94]
Saint Helena Phased emancipation of over 800 resident slaves, some six years before the British parliament passed legislation to ban slavery in all colonies. [73]
1829 Mexico Last slaves freed just as the first president of partial African ancestry (Vicente Guerrero) is elected. [59]

An anti-slavery map with an unusual perspective centered on West Africa, which is in the light, and contrasting the U. S. and Europe in the dark. By Julius Rubens Ames, 1847.

Date Jurisdiction Description
1830 Coahuila y Tejas Mexican President Anastasio Bustamante attempts to implement the abolition of slavery. To circumvent the law, Anglo-Texans declare their slaves "indentured servants for life". [95]
1830 Uruguay Slavery abolished.
Ottoman Empire Mahmud II issues a firman freeing all white slaves.
1831 Bolivia Slavery abolished. [59]
Brazil Law of 7 November 1831, abolishing the maritime slave trade, banning any importation of slaves, and granting freedom to slaves illegally imported into Brazil. The law was seldom enforced prior to 1850, when Brazil, under British pressure, adopted additional legislation to criminalize the importation of slaves.
1832 Greece Slavery abolished with independence.
1832 Coahuila y Tejas Anahuac Disturbances: Juan Davis Bradburn, American-born Mexican officer at Anahuac,Texas, confronts slave-owning American settlers, enforcing Mexican abolition of slavery and refusing to hand over two escaped slaves.
1834 United Kingdom The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 comes into force, abolishing slavery throughout most of the British Empire but on a gradual basis over the next six years. [96] Legally frees 700,000 in the West Indies, 20,000 in Mauritius, and 40,000 in South Africa. The exceptions are the territories controlled by the East India Company and Ceylon. [97]
France French Society for the Abolition of Slavery founded in Paris. [98]
1835 Serbia Freedom granted to all slaves in the moment they step on Serb soil. [99]
United Kingdom
France
Bilateral treaties abolishing the slave trade. [89]
United Kingdom
Denmark
Peru A decree of Felipe Santiago Salaverry re-legalizes the importation of slaves from other Latin American countries. The line "no slave shall enter Peru without becoming free" is taken out of the Constitution in 1839. [100]
1836 Portugal Prime Minister Sá da Bandeira bans the transatlantic slave trade and the importation and exportation of slaves to or from the Portuguese colonies south of the equator.
Texas Slavery made legal again with independence.
1837 Spain Slavery abolished outside of the colonies. [53]
1838 United Kingdom All slaves in the colonies become free after a period of forced apprenticeship following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions (now London Anti-Slavery Society) winds up.
1839 United Kingdom The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (after several changes, now known as Anti-Slavery International) is founded.
East India Company The Indian indenture system is abolished in territories controlled by the Company, but this is reversed in 1842.
Catholic Church Pope Gregory XVI's In supremo apostolatus resoundingly condemns slavery and the slave trade.
1840 United Kingdom
Venezuela
Bilateral treaty abolishing the slave trade.
United Kingdom First World Anti-Slavery Convention meets in London.
New Zealand Taking slaves banned by Treaty of Waitangi. [101]
1841 United Kingdom
France
Russia
Prussia
Austria
Quintuple Treaty agreeing to suppress the slave trade. [59]
United States United States v. The Amistad finds that the slaves of La Amistad were illegally enslaved and were legally allowed, as free men, to fight their captors by any means necessary.
1842 United Kingdom
Portugal
Bilateral treaty extending the enforcement of the slave trade ban to Portuguese ships south of the Equator.
Paraguay Law for the gradual abolition of slavery passed. [53]
1843 East India Company The Indian Slavery Act, 1843, Act V abolishes slavery in territories controlled by the Company.
United Kingdom
Uruguay
Bilateral treaties abolishing the slave trade. [89]
United Kingdom
Mexico
United Kingdom
Chile
United Kingdom
Bolivia
1844 Moldavia Mihail Sturdza abolishes slavery in Moldavia.
1845 United Kingdom 36 Royal Navy ships assigned to the Anti-Slavery Squadron, making it one of the largest fleets in the world.
Illinois In Jarrot v. Jarrot, the Illinois Supreme Court frees the last indentured ex-slaves in the state who were born after the Northwest Ordinance. [102]
1846 Tunisia Slavery abolished under Ahmad I ibn Mustafa bey rule. [103]
1847 Ottoman Empire Slave trade from Africa abolished. [104]
Saint Barthélemy Last slaves freed. [105]
Pennsylvania The last indentured ex-slaves, born before 1780 (fewer than 100 in the 1840 census [106] ) are freed.
Danish West Indies Royal edict ruling the freedom of children born from female slaves and the total abolition of slavery after 12 years. Dissatisfaction causes a slave rebellion in Saint Croix the next year.
1848 Austria Serfdom abolished. [107] [108] [109]
France Slavery abolished in the colonies. Gabon is founded as a settlement for emancipated slaves.
Danish West Indies Governor Peter von Scholten declares the immediate and total emancipation of all slaves in an attempt to end the slave revolt. For this he is recalled and tried for treason, but the charges are later dropped. [59] [105] [110]
Denmark Last remains of the Stavnsbånd effectively abolished.
United Kingdom
Muscat and Oman
Bilateral treaties abolishing the slave trade. [89]
1849 United Kingdom
Trucial States
Sierra Leone The Royal Navy destroys the slave factory of Lomboko.

Medical examination photo of Gordon showing his scourged back, widely distributed by Abolitionists to expose the brutality of slavery


Black Then Trivia: Which State Abolished Slavery First and in What Year?

However, we prioritize our role as historians when it comes to teaching the hallmarks of black people’s contributions to this nation’s history. Why? Because many of the historical facts pertaining to black America’s history are either undertaught, overlooked, or completely forgotten. Read below to find out which U.S. state abolished slavery BEFORE 1865.

The Attempt to Legislate State-Sponsored Freedom Before 1865

On July 2, 1777, Vermont became the first colony to abolish slavery when it ratified its first constitution and became a sovereign country, a status it maintained until its admittance to the union in 1791 as the 14th state in the United States. Read the selection from Chapter I of Vermont’s 1777 constitution which abolishes slavery below:

no male person, born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person, as a servant, slave or apprentice, after he arrives to the age of twenty-one Years, nor female, in like manner, after she arrives to the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent, after they arrive to such age, or bound by law, for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.

Despite the de jure abolition of slavery for men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 18, the claim that Vermont completely abolished slavery in 1777 has been subject to dispute.

Harvey Amani Whitfield, author of The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont, 1777-1810, writes that slavery in Vermont was gradually phased out over a period of multiple decades.

Additionally, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) staff write in “Vermont 1777: Early Steps Against Slavery” that even though “Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut abolitionists achieved laudable goals, each state created legal strictures making it difficult for ‘free’ blacks to find work, own property or even remain in the state” and that Vermont’s 1777 constitution’s “wording was vague enough to let Vermont’s already-established slavery practices continue.”

Even when slavery was finally outlawed in the Northern states, their economies were fully intertwined with the institution of slavery. Every occupation and institution from barrel makers to bankers to insurance companies to the textile industry and many more were connected to slavery.

The authors of Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery describe how New York City mayor Fernando Wood pushed for his city’s secession from the Union during the Civil War because “the lifeblood of New York City’s economy was cotton, the product most closely identified with the South and its defining system of labor: the slavery of millions of people of African descent.”

Read more about how northern states profited from slave labor even after they had abolished slavery in Complicity.


Lionsgate’s “Antebellum,” a psychological horror film about a Black woman forced into modern day chattel slavery, ends with its heroine, Veronica Eden (played by Janelle Monáe), riding triumphantly out of the Civil War reenactment park where she’d been held against her will.

The Antebellum South (also known as the antebellum era or plantation era) was a period in the history of the Southern United States from the late 18th century until the start of the American Civil War in 1861.


Vermont Abolishes Slavery - History

The newly formed state, which broke away from New York, abolished slavery outright in its constitution, dated July 8, 1777.

The relevant section is Chapter I, subtitled "A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE INHABITANTS OF THE STATE OF VERMONT"

After declaring its independence, Vermont existed as a free republic known as the Commonwealth of Vermont. It was admitted to the union in 1791, with a state constitution that also contained the slavery ban. The 1777 constitution entitles Vermont to claim to be the first U.S. state to have abolished slavery.

Historian Joanne Pope Melish finds that "the language of the act was sufficiently vague that slaveholding may have persisted without sanction in a few cases for several years."[1] She cites the age limit in the clause banning involuntary servitude and points out the possibility of binding out black children of parents who had been slaves before 1777. But more likely, as Melish states, this was meant to continue the common New England policy of binding out indigent children, white or black, to prevent them being public charges.

The Vermont slave story has another footnote, however. The official report of the U.S. Census in 1870 assigned 16 slaves to Vermont in 1790, all in Bennington County. The chief clerk of the Census Bureau at the time, George D. Harrington, happened to be from Vermont, and he "discovered the mistake" and changed the status of the 16 to "Free Other." A modern historian has turned up an issue of the "Vermont Gazette" of Sept. 26, 1791, which reported the return for Bennington County, with 21 black males and 15 black females, and the marshal's assistant's boast, "To the honor of humanity, NO SLAVES." On the one hand, this seems to verify that the 1870 report was an error on the other hand it raises the suspicion that the state pride and Free Soil enthusiasm of the census taker and Chief Clerk Harrington may have obscured a lingering slavery in Vermont.

From a speech on emancipation, by Sen. J.R. Doolittle of Wisconsin, March 19, 1862.[2]

I can give you a case directly in point. A very distinguished gentleman from Vermont was first elected to Congress, I believe, about 1843. One of the well-to-do farmers in his neighborhood called upon him, the evening before he was to leave for Washington, to pay his respects. He found him in his office, and told him that he came for that purpose, and to bid him good bye.

"And now, judge," said he, "when you get to Washington, I want to have you take hold of this negro business, and dispose of it in some way or other have slavery abolished, and be done with it."

"Well," said the judge, "as the people who own these slaves, or claim to own them, have paid their money for them, and hold them as property under their State laws, would it not be just, if we abolish slavery, that some provision should be made to make them compensation?"

He hesitated, thought earnestly for a while, and, in a serious tone, replied: "Yes, I think that would be just, and I will stand my share of the taxes." Although a very close and economical man, he was willing to bear his portion of the taxes.

"But," said the judge, "there is one other question when the negroes are emancipated, what shall be done with them? They are a poor people they will have nothing there must be some place for them to live. Do you think it would be any more than fair that we should take our share of them?"

"Well, what would be our share in the town of Woodstock?" he inquired.

The judge replied: "There are about two thousand five hundred people in Woodstock and if you take the census and make the computation, you will find that there would be about one for every five white persons so that here in Woodstock our share would be about five hundred."

"What!" said he, "five hundred negroes in Woodstock! Judge, I called to pay my respects I bid you good evening" and he started for the door, and mounted his horse. As he was about to leave, he turned round and said: "Judge, I guess you need not do anything more about that negro business on my account." [Laughter.]

Mr. President, perhaps I am not going too far when I say that honorable gentleman sits before me now.

Mr. [Jacob] COLLAMER [R-Vt.]. As the gentleman has called me out, I may be allowed to say that the inhabitants of the town were about three thousand, and the proportion was about one to six.


Underground Railroad Project: Anti-Slavery

The Vermont Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1834 just one year after the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society. One hundred delegates from 30 towns throughout Vermont came to the first meeting. The Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Vermont Anti-Slavery Society was Rowland Robinson. The purpose of the organization was to abolish slavery in the United States, and improve the mental, moral, and political condition of the &ldquocolored population.&rdquo

The Anti-Slavery Society did not wish to interfere with slavery or encourage slaves to revolt. Rather, the Society tried to accomplish its goals in a moral way. They wished to &ldquoexpose the guilt and danger of holding men as property&rdquo by publishing pamphlets, newspaper articles, and songs as well as lecturing in churches and at public meetings. This song, "The Slave's Lamentation," was written by Fairbank Bush of Norwich, Vermont. It was published as a broadside and circulated throughout the state.

In 1835, the society funded one agent who circulated anti-slavery material, lectured, and sold subscriptions. Members frequently wrote letters to Vermont newspapers such as The State Journal, The Middlebury Free Press, The North Star, The Voice of Freedom, and The Green Mountain Freeman. The Society also had depositories in Montpelier, Brandon, Vergennes, and Middlebury where people could read and purchase abolitionist newspapers, pamphlets, and books.

The Spread of the Anti-Slavery Movement vs. Prejudice in Vermont

By 1837 there were 89 local anti-slavery societies in Vermont with over 5,000 members. Bennington&rsquos anti-slavery society was founded in 1837 with 140 members. The Lincoln-Starksboro society had 485 members--among these members were many Quakers. One of the most famous Quaker abolitionists was Lucretia Mott. Lucretia Mott was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and spoke throughout the United States and England --her most well-known speech is "I Am No Advocate of Passivity" given in 1860 to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society.

African Americans also belonged to the anti-slavery societies. At the annual meeting of the Chittenden County Anti-Slavery Society in 1840 a Mr. Miller spoke to the &ldquocoloured persons present&rdquo encouraging them to live down the &ldquoprejudice existing in the community against them.&rdquo

While the Vermont Legislature routinely passed resolutions against slavery and while there were many local anti-slavery societies, that did not mean that Vermont was free from prejudice against blacks. Frederick Douglass tells of his African-American friend Daniel O'Connell's experiences while on a lecture tour in Vermont:

Once when O'Connell was "traveling to Vermont, and having arrived at a stage[coach], they took in five new passengers. It being dark at the time, they did not know the colour of his [O'Connell's] skin, and he was treated with all manner of respect. In fact he could not help thinking at the time that he would be a great man if perpetual darkness would only take the place of day. Scarcely however had the light gilded the green mountains of Vermont than he saw one of the chaps in the coach take a sly peep at him, and whisper to another "Egad after all 'tis a nigger." He had black looks for the remainder of the way, and disrespect." (Frederick Douglass at an anti-slavery meeting at City Court House, Cork, Ireland, on October 14, 1845, as reported in "Interesting Narrative of Fugitive Slave," Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier, October 16, 1845.)

Objections to the Anti-Slavery Movement

Like the Vermont Colonization Society, there were people who objected to the Vermont Anti-Slavery Society. Some people did not agree with the anti-slavery societies because they felt that:

  • Slaves were too ignorant to be free
  • Abolitionists were infringing on the rights of slave owners
  • The anti-slavery societies were endangering the Union.
  • These objections to the Vermont Anti-Slavery Society were sometimes violent. In 1835 abolitionist Samuel J. May made a lecture tour through the state and was mobbed five times. May was an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and the first Unitarian minister to propose, from the pulpit, immediate emancipation.

The most famous riot took place at Montpelier where Mr. May had been invited to address the Society. Many of the members of the legislature then in session were abolitionists, and May was offered the use of Representatives Hall for his first meeting. In spite of a few rotten eggs and stones appearing on the capitol grounds as a warning to him, he gave his speech and accepted a second invitation for the next evening from the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church.

In the morning, placards appeared about the town advising "the people generally and ladies in particular not to attend the anti-slavery meeting, as. as the person who is advertised to speak will be prevented by violence if necessary." In the afternoon May received a letter, requesting him to leave town, "without any further attempt to hold forth the absurd doctrine of antislaver." At the appointed hour he mounted the pulpit and started to speak.

Chaos began at once May got in some remarks on free speech. When May attempted to speak again, a rush was made for the pulpit to the cry of "throw him over, choke him!" Rioters included several prominent local businessmen who were involved in the Colonization Society.

Frederick Douglass toured Vermont and tells of a speaking tour he made here in 1843:

"Those who only know the State of Vermont as it is today can hardly understand, and must wonder that there was forty years ago a need for anti-slavery effort within its borders. The several towns [we] visited showed that Vermont was surprisingly under the influence of the slave power. Her proud boast that within her borders no slave had ever been delivered up to his master, did not hinder her hatred to anti-slavery." In Middlebury, for example, "the opposition to our anti-slavery convention was intensely bitter and violent. Few people attended our meeting, and apparently little was accomplished. In Ferrisburgh the case was different and more favorable. The way had been prepared for us by such stalwart anti-slavery workers as Orson S. Murray, Charles C. Burleigh, Rowland T. Robinson, and others."

The Meanings of Emancipation

Members of the anti-slavery societies also often disagreed with each other. While some members believed in immediate emancipation (that slaves should all be set free immediately), others believed in gradual emancipation (that slaves should be set free more gradually). The &ldquoimmediate emancipationists&rdquo were much more radical than the &ldquogradual emancipationists.&rdquo The Vermont Anti-Slavery Society took the stand that immediate emancipation was the only "effectual remedy for the evil of slavery."


Vermont Abolishes Slavery - History

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Slavery Didn't End On Juneteenth. Here's What You Should Know About This Important Day

It goes by many names. Whether you call it Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or the country's second Independence Day, Juneteenth is one of the most important anniversaries in our nation's history.

On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, who had fought for the Union, led a force of soldiers to Galveston, Texas, to deliver a very important message: the war was finally over, the Union had won, and it now had the manpower to enforce the end of slavery. The announcement came two months after the effective conclusion of the Civil War, and even longer since Abraham Lincoln had first signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but many enslaved black people in Texas still weren't free, even after that day.

That was 156 years ago. Here are the basics of Juneteenth that everyone should know.

What Juneteenth represents

First things first: Juneteenth gets its name from combining "June" and "nineteenth," the day that Gen. Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, bearing a message of freedom for the slaves there. Upon his arrival, he read out General Order Number 3, informing the residents that slavery would no longer be tolerated all slaves were now free and would henceforth be treated as hired workers if they chose to remain on the plantations, according to the Juneteenth website.

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer," the order reads, in part.

But while former slaves had the option of staying on their plantations as workers, it's perhaps unsurprising that many did not and instead left in search of new beginnings or to find family members who had been sold away.

"It immediately changed the game for 250,000 people," Shane Bolles Walsh, a lecturer with the University of Maryland's African American Studies Department, told NPR.

Enslaved black people, now free, had ample cause to celebrate. As Felix Haywood, a former slave, recalled: "Everybody went wild. We all felt like heroes . just like that, we were free."

Slavery did not end on Juneteenth

When Gen. Granger arrived in Galveston, there still existed around 250,000 slaves and they were not all freed immediately, or even soon. It was not uncommon for slave owners, unwilling to give up free labor, to refuse to release their slaves until forced to, in person, by a representative of the government, historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in his explainer. Some would wait until one final harvest was complete, and some would just outright refuse to submit. It was a perilous time for black people, and some former slaves who were freed or attempted to get free were attacked and killed.

For Confederate states like Texas, even before Juneteenth, there existed a "desire to hold on to that system as long as they could," Walsh explained to NPR.

Before the reading of General Order Number 3, many slave owners in Confederate states simply chose not to tell their slaves about the Emancipation Proclamation and did not honor it. They got away with it because, before winning the war, Union soldiers were largely unable to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in Southern states. Still, even though slavery in America would not truly come to an end until the ratification of the 13th Amendment, the Emancipation Proclamation still played a pivotal role in that process, historian Lonnie Bunch told NPR in 2013.

"What the Emancipation Proclamation does that's so important is it begins a creeping process of emancipation where the federal government is now finally taking firm stands to say slavery is wrong and it must end," Bunch said.

People have celebrated Juneteenth any way they can

After they were freed, some former slaves and their descendants would travel to Galveston annually in honor of Juneteenth. That tradition soon spread to other states, but it wasn't uncommon for white people to bar black people from celebrating in public spaces, forcing black people to get creative. In one such case, community leaders in Houston – all of whom were former slaves – saved $1,000 to purchase land in 1867 that would be devoted specifically to Juneteenth celebrations, according to the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. That land became Emancipation Park, a name that it still bears.

"'If you want to commemorate something, you literally have to buy land to commemorate it on' is, I think, just a really potent example of the long-lasting reality of white supremacy," Walsh said.

Nevertheless, black Americans found a way to continue to celebrate and lift each other up. Early on, Juneteenth celebrations often involved helping newly freed black folks learn about their voting rights, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Rodeos and horseback riding were also common. Now, Juneteenth celebrations commonly involve cookouts, parades, church services, musical performances and other public events, Walsh explained.

It's a day to "commemorate the hardships endured by ancestors," Walsh said. He added, "It really exemplifies the survival instinct, the ways that we as a community really make something out of nothing. . It's about empowerment and hopefulness."

And there's reason to be hopeful. After literal decades of activists campaigning for change, Congress has approved Juneteenth as a federal holiday.


Watch the video: The state of Vermont abolishes slavery (May 2022).