Colleges Falsely Claim Juneteenth Was ‘The Day Slavery Ended in the U.S.’

by Hans Bader

Many colleges and progressives are claiming that Juneteenth — June 19, 1865 — was “the day slavery ended” in the U.S. But slavery actually remained legal in Kentucky and Delaware until December 6, 1865, the day the Thirteenth Amendment’s ban on slavery went into effect.

Yale University has a web site titled, “Juneteenth: Remembering the day slavery ended in the U.S.” Similarly, Bill Nye, the self-proclaimed “science guy,” claimed that “the last” slaves “were not freed (officially) until June 19, 1865.”

These claims are not true. As the London Daily Mail notes, the last slaves were not legally freed until six months later, when “the 13th Amendment fully prohibited the owning of slaves, spurring states such as Kentucky and Delaware – where it had still been legal – to cease the practice.” Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only declared slaves free if they were held in areas that had been controlled by Confederate rebels, not in slave states that remained loyal to the union, such as Delaware and Kentucky.

Twitter users pointed out to Nye that the “Emancipation Proclamation didn’t cover” slave states that didn’t join the Confederacy, and that “Actually, the final slaves weren’t freed in Kentucky and Delaware until the 13th Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.” (Nye, a left-leaning TV personality, is not a scientist.)

It is easy to see how Nye, who is also not an historian, got this wrong (although he should have corrected his error). It is much harder to understand how Yale University got this basic historical fact wrong. Yale has a history department, and someone in it should have pointed out that Yale was mistaken to claim that Juneteenth was “the day slavery ended in the U.S.”

I was accurately taught in both grade school and college that slavery did not legally end in America until December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery even in the border states. But today, as progressives teach what they call “honest history,” this basic historical fact has apparently been forgotten.

Many Virginia colleges have left the false impression with students that Juneteenth ended slavery in America. The University of Virginia told students that “Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, marking the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Texas, the last of the former Confederate states to abolish slavery, and brought news that the war had ended and enslaved African Americans were free.”

By saying that “Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States,” UVa leaves the misleading impression that on June 19 slavery ended in America. It would be more accurate to say that “Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in Texas,” which is why Juneteenth was made a state holiday in Texas in 1980, more than 40 years before it became a national holiday.

But the College of William and Mary similarly claims that Juneteenth “marks the end of slavery in the United States.”

This is one example of how the teaching of history has been less accurate over time.

Many progressives think conservatives oppose the teaching of “honest history.” But I grew up in a conservative county that voted for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan in presidential elections, and I was taught honest history — that slavery caused the Civil War, and that the mistreatment of Black people did not end with emancipation, but continued under Jim Crow, lynchings, and segregation. I was taught graphically about the evils of slavery, such as being shown images of a Black man whose back was a mass of ugly scar tissue from a savage whipping. I was taught about how a racist White mob destroyed “Black Wall Street” in the Greenwood district of Tulsa. Blacks rebuilt Greenwood after it was destroyed, but it came to an end decades later due to “urban renewal.”

I was taught a more nuanced, accurate history. I was taught that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and that this was a grave moral wrong. But I was also taught that Jefferson supported a 1782 Virginia manumission law allowing slave owners to free slaves, over much public opposition, and that as a Virginia legislator, he had supported legislation in 1778 to ban the importation of slaves into Virginia. Today, these relevant details do not appear to be taught to Virginia students like my daughter.

I was taught a much more accurate version of Native American history than today’s students. I was taught about how the Iroquois exterminated a neighboring tribe, the Huron, killing almost all of its 30,000 men, women, and children. My daughter never learned this in her history classes in Arlington.

Torture was a commonplace practice among Native Americans. As Nathaniel Knowles of the University of Pennsylvania noted in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, “The Indians of eastern North America evinced great emotional satisfactions from the prolonged tortures often inflicted on war captives.” As True West Magazine notes,

Long before the Euro-Americans arrived, Indian tribes were constantly at war with one another. Captives were often put to death. While being tortured, they were expected to show self-control, bragging of their prowess as a warrior, showing defiance and singing their ‘death songs.’ These were public events and the entire village attended, including the children.

But thanks to woke textbooks that falsely depict Indian tribes as peaceful environmentalists, members of Generation Z think Indian tribes lived in harmony with each other before the wicked White man arrived. At least 70 percent of Zoomers agree with the false statement: “Prior to the arrival of the European settlers, Native American/ Indigenous tribes lived in peace and harmony.” Only about 40 percent of Boomers believe this.

The belief among some progressives that students are not being taught about the negative aspects of U.S. history is unfounded. In fact, so much attention is devoted to historical evils such as slavery that “4 out of 10 Gen Z’ers believe that the founders of the United States are better described as villains than as heroes. Somewhere along the line, a significant portion of young adults developed the idea that America’s founders were more evil than good,” notes psychology professor Jean M. Twenge in her book, Generations.

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for CNSNews.com and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at hfb138@yahoo.com.


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48 responses to “Colleges Falsely Claim Juneteenth Was ‘The Day Slavery Ended in the U.S.’”

  1. LesGabriel Avatar
    LesGabriel

    Sounds like “an inconvenient truth” for the reputation of the state of Delaware and its residents.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Jim Downs, author of “Sick from Freedom”, asserts that one in four freed slaves died between 1862 and 1870. The cause was disease, starvation, and destitution. One million victims. A simple byproduct of the process of emancipation.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Apparently some of the Northern states when abolishing slavery considered the problems an elderly slave might face. NJ(?) freed slaves younger than a certain age and forbade the sale of slaves of an older age, making it difficult for a slaveholder from abandoning his slave to fates.

      Someone understood The Little Prince long before its publication.

  3. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Bader states the 13th Amendment banned slavery. The actual text offers precatory words stating “slavery shall not exist” in the US. The amendment fails to declare the practice illegal offering jurisdictions the opportunity to adopt a variety of Jim Crow laws to sustain a more nuanced prejudice.

    1. Lefty665 Avatar
      Lefty665

      Welcome back, and thanks for making up for lost time. In two posts you have managed to get the OPs name wrong twice and misinterpret the 13th Amendment with “precatory” (1 Relating to or expressing entreaty or supplication. 2 Expressing a wish. 3 Expressing a wish but not creating any legal obligation or duty.) and conflating prejudice with slavery.

      Congrats on maintaining your Jim McCarthy Silly Walk chops. Way to go, I knew you could do it!

  4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    The campaign to get the date of the occurrence of an obscure event in Texas more than 150 years ago a national holiday has got to be a textbook case study of special interest lobbying.

    It makes no sense that the event in Texas has been selected as “the end of slavery.” Slavery, in effect, was abolished when Lee surrended at Appomattox, Lincoln toured Richmond, or the Confederacy officially surrendered. Take your pick.

    The most logical date to commemorate the abolition of slavery would the date that the 13th Amendment went into effect. But that is in December, right in with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Therefore, the proponents of a holiday probably thought it would be overlooked in December.

    Steve has a good point. It is a day that “marks” the end of slavery. But “Juneteenth” is such a silly name. It does not do justice to the importance of the event being marked. Besides, there are seven days that could be labeled “Juneteenth”. How is one supposed to know that it is June 19? Better names would have been “Emancipation Day” or “Freedom Day”.

    1. M. Purdy Avatar
      M. Purdy

      “Slavery, in effect, was abolished when Lee surrended at Appomattox, Lincoln toured Richmond, or the Confederacy officially surrendered. Take your pick.” I think you can go even further back to Nov. 1864 when Lincoln won in a landslide and the Republican platform endorsed the end of slavery. The notion that somehow the 13th Amendment was the “end of slavery” is wrong, as you point out. The reality on the battlefield, the active use of “contraband” by the US Army, former slaves living freely behind Union lines, Emancipation, and the contributions of 200K African American soldiers meant that slavery was going to end, thank god. The 13th formalized it and allowed no backsliding.

      1. Teddy007 Avatar
        Teddy007

        The confererates west of the Mississippi did not surrender at the same time as Lee surrendered at Appomattox. The Battle of Palmito Ranch occurred after than time and as a confederate victory.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Palmito_Ranch

        1. M. Purdy Avatar
          M. Purdy

          But what did it matter? The Confederacy was doomed after Lincoln’s reelection.

          1. Teddy007 Avatar
            Teddy007

            Where the confedrates were still in charge, slavery was going to remain. Top thinking like a college history academic and think about what the people on the ground were doing. What General Granger did was tell the local and state governments of Texas to stop enforcing any law regarding slavery.

          2. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            “Where the confedrates were still in charge, slavery was going to remain.” So when Granger made that pronouncement, who was really in charge?

          3. Teddy007 Avatar
            Teddy007

            The union forces were establishing control. Get over trying to be clever and just like with the history.

          4. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            Not trying to be clever, just saying that categorical statements like you made raise a lot of questions. And so does saying one point in time is where “slavery ended,” as the author points out. It’s hard to find a specific date, but I think you can make the case that November 1864 is the key period.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      I learned something. When slaves escaped to Fortress Monroe, three owners from Hampton approached Gen. Butler(?) and demanded their return based on the Fugitive Slave Act, the Constitution, etc. The good General had to explain that Virginia was no longer able to invoke those laws. Seceding had consequences.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Butler said they were contraband of war. After that, escaped slaves flocked to Hampton.

      2. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        Use his proper name. “Spoons” Butler. He picked up that moniker in New Orleans. Very political commission and leading troops totally incompetent.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Since when was competence a prerequisite for any appointment?

          Cool. Apparently he created the cottage industry of souvenir spoons! I shall view the spousal unit’s collection with a new reverence.

    3. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      I learned something. When slaves escaped to Fortress Monroe, three owners from Hampton approached Gen. Butler(?) and demanded their return based on the Fugitive Slave Act, the Constitution, etc. The good General had to explain that Virginia was no longer able to invoke those laws. Seceding had consequences.

    4. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Politicians declare holidays to garner votes. Lee’s Birthday was a holiday established by the Old Democrats. This one by the New Democrats. But the purpose is to make a group of voters happy either way. Juneteenth has become a second Fourth of July, the Other Fourth of July, and is just one more sign of the growing (not shrinking) segregation and separation of our people. But party on. No longer matters really if the banks are closed, the mail doesn’t run.

    5. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      BTW, completely agree on Juneteenth. Just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

      I mean, who in Hell would go to New-Or-Leenes for Fat Tuesday? Now, Mardi Gras in Nawlins, and ya got sumpthin’.

      1. pak152 Avatar

        “Nawlins,” is used only be those not in the know. anyone using that term gets laughed at by New Orleanians

    6. pak152 Avatar

      those of us from Texas have always know that Juneteenth meant June 19th

    7. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Politicians declare holidays to garner votes. Lee’s Birthday was a holiday established by the Old Democrats. This one by the New Democrats. But the purpose is to make a group of voters happy either way. Juneteenth has become a second Fourth of July, the Other Fourth of July, and is just one more sign of the growing (not shrinking) segregation and separation of our people. But party on. No longer matters really if the banks are closed, the mail doesn’t run.

    8. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Mr. Dick I pulled out my copy of Harwood Lockett’s autobiography written in 1898. He is my 4th great grandfather. On page 43 he marked the end of slavery at Lombardy Grove in Mecklenburg County as April 15th. This was the day his two sons returned from the surrender at Appomattox. Harwood specifically noted that he gathered his 36 slaves and told them that they were free. He offered that they could leave or they could remain and be paid wages for their labor. Lombardy Grove was unique. Untouched by the devastation of war, the plantation boasted a foundry, gristmill, 1,700 acres of cultivated land, a tavern, a general store, and post office. No one left. There was shelter, food, and wages offered. In fact the place thrived until the panic of 1873. This financial calamity left the Lockett’s destitute and everyone ended up leaving Mecklenburg for brighter prospects some place else. I think the real Juneteenth was a highly individual event for former slaves based on time and circumstance.

    9. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      “Besides, there are seven days that could be labeled ‘Juneteenth’.”

      Yeah, but so defined, it has the advantage of always falling on a weekend.

      1. Lefty665 Avatar
        Lefty665

        And yet this year it was on Monday.

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    July 2, 1964 in some places.

    Another Japanese soldier found on island story, eh Hans?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The W&M website does not specifically say slavery ended June 19, 1965, but merely that Juneteenth “marks the end of slavery,” which I think is a fair statement of the purpose. December 25th “marks” the birth of Jesus with far less historical basis. The basic student understanding of that tradition is probably pretty thin, now, too.

      Want woke? You’ll really love this, Bader. It is from Richmond’s actual “Climate Plan” document:

      “Indigenous people stewarded the land in and around today’s Richmond for thousands of years. Europeans displaced these original stewards and began a progression of colonialism and degradation of groups of people and natural resources based on what would benefit white, landowning male inhabitants. White settlers maintained their power through the capture and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Africans and centuries of laws and programs that hurt communities of color.”

      Of course the same document is warning of sea level rise at Bosher Dam….

      1. Nathan Avatar

        ‘Indigenous people stewarded the land…’

        We often hear about how close Native Americans were to the land and nature. That’s true, but it’s true of all stone age cultures. What other option did they have?

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        1865. My reference was to the signing of the CRA. Hans is obviously correct wrt Kentucky and Delaware (a highly confused chunk of dirt; possibly the birthplace of Jim Crow), but Juneteenth is just when the last place in the CSA was informed of the Emancipation Proclamation.

        Sort of a “Battle of New Orleans” moment for slavery.

        Speaking of Sea Level rise, HRSD is pumping purified sewage into the Potomac aquifer to halt subsidence.

        Whaddya know? It’s was true! I had always heard, “If the Earth ever needed an enema then Norfolk….”

  6. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Bader also takes some pleasure in repeating the violence of war and conquest among indigenous nations. Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the Iroquois nation created a peace pact called the Haudenosaunee. While not perfectly successful in ending wartime violence, Ben Franklin was an admirer. It can be noted that the United Nations has not been successful in preventing conflict. Bader’s “balanced” view fails to mention the Haudensaunee effort.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      The Haudenosaunee confederacy was pretty successful in keeping the peace among its members. It was made up of the Iroquois Five Nations: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas.

      Kind of like NATO.

      But it was by warfare well before the Europeans arrived that they drove the Osage, Kaw, Ponca and Omaha people west to the Ohio Valley.

      During the Beaver Wars in the mid-17th century the Iroquois destroyed several large tribal confederacies—including the Huron, Neutral, Erie, Susquehannock, and Shawnee.

      1. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        Hopefully, Bader reads your comments.

      2. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        The Tuscarora joined later increasing the peace pact to six nations.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      OTOH, Serbia is disarming. Someday…

  7. Nathan Avatar

    The history of slaves owned by Native Americans is also interesting.

    ‘The forced removal of the Five Tribes from their homelands in the southeastern United States to Indian Territory in the 1830s also included the African Americans enslaved by many tribe members. The transition of these slaves to American citizenship is unique in the history of race relations in the United States. It was a journey filled with contentious negotiation among factions of the Indian nations, the federal government, capitalist developers, black and white agricultural colonizers, and the Freedmen themselves. Efforts to secure the rights of the Freedmen represented one aspect of the struggle that ultimately opened Indian lands to non-Indian settlement.”

    Here’s a link to the rest of the story.

    https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=FR016#:~:text=The%20Cherokee%20national%20government%20freed,few%20slaveholders%20acknowledged%20this%20law.

  8. pak152 Avatar

    the misinformationa about Juneteenth this year has been especially egregious .

    1. M. Purdy Avatar
      M. Purdy

      Imagine what it’s like living with the misinformation of the Lost Cause for 140 years…

      1. pak152 Avatar

        what misinformation? be specific

        1. M. Purdy Avatar
          M. Purdy

          Mmmmhmmm.

          1. pak152 Avatar

            so you can’t provide any
            Thanks

          2. Teddy007 Avatar
            Teddy007

            https://news.gsu.edu/research-magazine/rewriting-history-civil-war-textbooks

            Look stuff up rather than trying to be clever.

        2. Teddy007 Avatar
          Teddy007

          Lost Cause Textbooks: Civil War Education in the South from the 1890s to the 1920s
          https://egrove.olemiss.edu/hon_thesis/275/#:~:text=The%20Lost%20Cause%20narrative%20in,and%20officers%20during%20the%20war.

          Try google yourself next time.

  9. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll
  10. Teddy007 Avatar
    Teddy007

    But were there still slaveholder holding slaves in Ky and Del in November 1865. Was the state government still chasing run away slaves in November 1865? Were there any enforcement mechanisms left in November 1865 in those two states? For is there sa difference between the de facto end of slavery in those states and the legal end of slavery?

    1. WayneS Avatar

      I found this:

      According to historians James C. Klotter and Craig Thompson Friend, nearly 71% of enslaved Kentuckians gained their freedom through military service. Yet over 65,000 remained in bondage until the passage of the 13th Amendment.

      from this article:

      https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2022/06/16/juneteenth-why-kentucky-last-free-enslaved-people-not-texas/7610522001/

    2. WayneS Avatar

      And this: Only in December 1865, when the 13th Amendment went into effect on a national scale, did slavery cease in Delaware. By then there were only a few hundred left. Many male slaves had enlisted in black regiments during the war.

      from this site: https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2008/07/slavery-in-delaware.html

      Interesting fact: Delaware did not ratify the 13th Amendment until February 12, 1901. It was a moot point, of course, since enough states had passed it to make it part of the Constitution, but only Kentucky and Mississippi waited longer than Delaware.

  11. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    This Juneteenth, State offices in Mississippi remained open, but were closed to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day (April 24th).

    Confederate Memorial Day is currently an official state holiday in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina; while it is commemorated in Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee. It was also formerly recognized in Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Virginia.

    So do you really care?

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