During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation declared that slavery would end in any area still in rebellion against the United States on January 1, 1863. Lincoln hoped that Southerners would rejoin the United States before the deadline to keep their slaves. These Southerners refused to recognize Lincoln's conciliatory gesture, and slavery, in theory, ended in areas in rebellion on January 1, 1863. Slavery did not end everywhere within the United States on that date. The Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the Border States. It also did not end slavery in areas in the South that Union forces had conquered. These areas included several coastal areas along the Atlantic Ocean, as well as parts of northern Virginia and Louisiana. Nevertheless, the Civil War had become a war to end slavery. The last Southern African Americans to hear about the Emancipation Proclamation did not learn of it until June 1865. Slavery did not end everywhere in the United States until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865.
In commemoration of the Emancipation Proclamation and to mark the date when the last Southern African Americans gained their freedom in areas that were still in rebellion, African Americans and their supporters began to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday. Occurring in June of every year since 1865, this event marks the notification of African-American slaves in Texas of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865.
Residents of Gallipolis, Ohio, began holding their own yearly event to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Gallipolis' event is the longest-running commemoration of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States.
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- Vorenberg, Michael. Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2001.