Celebrating Juneteenth: A Reading Of The Emancipation Proclamation On this Juneteenth, NPR is marking the day in 1865 when Union forces arrived in Texas with the news that slavery had been abolished two years earlier with a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
NPR logo

Celebrating Juneteenth: A Reading Of The Emancipation Proclamation

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/880754393/880754394" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Celebrating Juneteenth: A Reading Of The Emancipation Proclamation

Celebrating Juneteenth: A Reading Of The Emancipation Proclamation

Celebrating Juneteenth: A Reading Of The Emancipation Proclamation

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/880754393/880754394" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Emancipation Proclamation on display at the National Archives in Washington in 2006. Brooks Kraft/Corbis via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Brooks Kraft/Corbis via Getty Images

The Emancipation Proclamation on display at the National Archives in Washington in 2006.

Brooks Kraft/Corbis via Getty Images

Juneteenth is getting unusually widespread attention this year, as Americans protest police brutality and racism.

But some Americans have, for years, celebrated it as the day that marks our ancestors' emancipation.

June 19, 1865, was the day U.S. Army troops landed in Galveston, Texas. It was the aftermath of the Civil War. The troops informed some of the last enslaved Americans that they were forever free. They enforced President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which had taken effect on Jan. 1, 1863.

The proclamation declared freedom for the slaves of rebels in the South. It came after almost two years of war, and it took more years of war to enforce it. The order did not free every slave, and the document specified places where it did not apply.

Frederick Douglass, the activist who had been enslaved himself, said Lincoln was slow, even "slothful" in making this "obvious" move. But Douglass celebrated that "the dictation of humanity and justice have at last prevailed."

The Emancipation Proclamation

  • Michel Martin

    Michel Martin Stephen Voss/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Stephen Voss/NPR

    Michel Martin

    Stephen Voss/NPR

    By the President of the United States of America:

    A Proclamation.

    Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

  • Noel King

    Noel King Sandy Honig/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Sandy Honig/NPR

    Noel King

    Sandy Honig/NPR

    "That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free;

  • Sam Sanders

    Sam Sanders / hide caption

    toggle caption
    /

    and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

  • Rodney Carmichael

    Rodney Carmichael. Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR

    Rodney Carmichael.

    Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR

    "That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States;

  • Juana Summers

    Juana Summers Mary Gardella hide caption

    toggle caption
    Mary Gardella

    Juana Summers

    Mary Gardella

    and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

  • Dwane Brown

    Dwane Brown Robert Dahey/NA hide caption

    toggle caption
    Robert Dahey/NA

    Dwane Brown

    Robert Dahey/NA

    Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion,

  • Audie Cornish

    Audie Cornish Stephen Voss for NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Stephen Voss for NPR

    Audie Cornish

    Stephen Voss for NPR

    do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

  • Tonya Mosley

    Tonya Mosley Liz Linder hide caption

    toggle caption
    Liz Linder

    Tonya Mosley

    Liz Linder

    Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama,

  • Brakkton Booker

    Brakkton Booker Allison Shelley/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Allison Shelley/NPR

    Brakkton Booker

    Allison Shelley/NPR

    Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

  • Korva Coleman

    Korva Coleman Doby Photography/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Doby Photography/NPR

    Korva Coleman

    Doby Photography/NPR

    And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free;

  • Gene Demby

    Gene Demby Kainaz Amaria/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR

    Gene Demby

    Kainaz Amaria/NPR

    and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

  • Cheryl Corley

    Cheryl Corley Allison Shelley/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Allison Shelley/NPR

    Cheryl Corley

    Allison Shelley/NPR

    And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

  • Eric Deggans

    Eric Deggans Eric Deggans hide caption

    toggle caption
    Eric Deggans

    Eric Deggans

    Eric Deggans

    And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

  • Ayesha Rascoe

    Ayesha Rascoe Allison Shelley/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Allison Shelley/NPR

    Ayesha Rascoe

    Allison Shelley/NPR

    And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

  • Walter Ray Watson

    Walter Ray Watson Kainaz Amaria/NPR hide caption

    toggle caption
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR

    Walter Ray Watson

    Kainaz Amaria/NPR

    In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

    Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

    By the President: Abraham Lincoln