Letter: Dec. 6 would be a better day to celebrate the end of slavery

Posted 6/24/21

Celebrating the abolition of slavery in the United States is a wonderful observance and a vivid reminder of America’s second greatest evil. The first was the wholesale killing of Native …

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Letter: Dec. 6 would be a better day to celebrate the end of slavery

Posted

Celebrating the abolition of slavery in the United States is a wonderful observance and a vivid reminder of America’s second greatest evil. The first was the wholesale killing of Native Americans and the unjust taking of their land. 

If June 19th (Juneteenth) is the symbolic chosen date for such an anti-slave celebration, so be it. However, to be historically (rather than politically) correct, I would have chosen Dec. 6. On that date in 1865, Georgia ratified the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery. That ratification gave the amendment the necessary three-fourths of the existing states to become part of the U.S. Constitution.

The Thirteenth Amendment was necessary because Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, a war measure, was of very questionable constitutionality. It was under the authority of that proclamation that Union general Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas proclaimed that slaves in Texas were free.

The statement in the June 16 Providence Journal by URI professors that June 19, 1865 “marked the end of the enslavement of Black people in the United States” is incorrect. Emancipation occurred on Dec. 6 (the same date another persecuted minority secured the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921). It dd not occur on June 19 by the action of a Lone Granger.

But why let History and Constitutional Law spoil the celebration of a great reform!

My preferred date of Dec. 6 is also the feast of St. Nicholas (the prototype for Santa Claus). What greater gift could St. Nicholas bring than freedom. 

Patrick T. Conley
Bristol
Historian Laureate State of Rhode Island

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