In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln proposed emancipation as a war measure to coerce the surrender of the treasonous states, offering them the opportunity to maintain slavery if they ended hostilities against the Union, said Anthony Parent, a professor of history and American ethnic studies at WFU.
When the southern states refused, Lincoln granted emancipation to the enslaved people once the Union lines reached those states, Parent said.
“He (Lincoln) did not emancipate the enslaved people in the states loyal to the Union: Maryland, Missouri, Delaware or Kentucky,” Parent said. “Making the war one of liberation opened the door to African American participation.
“Not only did four out of five men eligible to serve in the free states volunteer for the U.S. Colored Troops, but also the ex-enslaved people made up the bulk of the recruits,” Parent said. “More than 220,000 fought in the war to liberate their people.”
Other Black people assisted in the Union war effort by running to Union lines, Parent said. Black Union troops were the first to liberate Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy.
Since liberation was realized by military action, it took the army until June 19, 1865 to liberate the enslaved people in Texas,” Parent said.
“The freed people themselves chose June 19 as their holiday and coined Juneteenth by blending the date into a single word, reflecting the orality of their folk culture which had enabled them to endure and survive enslavement,” Parent said. “They eschewed both Jan. 1 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect and April 31, 1865, when the 13th Amendment passed constitutional muster, as a candidate for a holiday.