On this day 158 years ago (June 19, 1865), the news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and of Congress’s 13th Amendment was delivered with finality and authority on the shores of Galveston, TX, effectively ending slavery in the Lone Star State.
Although President Lincoln had issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” as an Executive Order September 22, 1862, and although it became effective January 1, 1863, the 13th Amendment was not passed by Congress until January 31, 1865 (and it was not ratified until December 6 that year).
The Civil War officially ended when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysess S. Grant in Virginia on April 9, 1865. Six days later, April 15, 1865, President Lincoln would pay the ultimate price for boldly leading the way to ensure the freedom of every human being in these United States, regardless his or her color of skin or nationality of origin. For two months, Texans refused to acknowledge the war had ended and slavery had been abolished. Two months and four days after President Lincoln was murdered, on June 19, 1865, General Granger would arrive on the island of Galveston, TX armed with 2,000 troops and a proclamation that would change the shape of history forever by declaring freedom for 250,000 human beings in Texas who had been enslaved against their will.
General Granger’s delivered proclamation: “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 free laborer.”
Admittedly, we still have a long road ahead. But what a wonderful day this is to celebrate the first step toward “absolute equality!” South Carolina owns a long, tragic, and disturbing history in the American slave trade. But today, by God’s grace, we stand with and celebrate with African Americans whose lives and citizenship are a blessing to all humanity and to us (to me), personally.
African American brothers and sisters, may your day be filled with shouts of joy and prayers of peace. And may the gladness of this temporal celebration direct all of our hearts and minds to the eternal oneness that is ours in Christ Jesus alone:
“For He is our peace who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility… He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which He put the hostility to death,” (Ephesians. 2:14-16).
-Dr. Tony Wolfe, Executive Director-Treasurer