SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — On June 19, 1865, The U.S. Army marched into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves they were free.
A Missouri State University history professor, Marlin Barber, says Just two years before this event on June 19, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln, which required confederate states to free their slaves, but Texas didn’t listen.
“Keep in mind that the states that were in rebellion didn’t recognize themselves as being a part of the United States and so they didn’t see Lincoln as being the authority figure,” said Barber.
Barber says that led to Union Army general, Gordon Granger, coming to Galveston and reading federal orders and that this was a day of celebration and reuniting for many families.
“People there were told that they were indeed free,” said Barber. “This was a day of jubilee. A day of community. A day of reunification, if you will, for many people that were enslaved.”
He says for many people that were slaves; today holds much more meaning than the 4th of July or independence day.
Barber teaches his students about Juneteenth every semester.
Juneteenth has a special meaning to Barber since his ancestors were slaves.
He says he can see the legacy they started in himself and his children.
“It’s much more again complex than just being enslaved,” said Barber. “But they were real people. And my great great great grandmother, I was able to find her and kind of trace my lineage that descended from her. I see this as part of their legacy. Seeing their legacy, seeing their struggle, their fight to be free and to be citizens in the United States.”
Barber says just under 4 million people were slaves when the Civil War started.