The History of This Celebration
The Original Watchnight
On “Freedom’s Eve,” or the eve of January 1, 1863, the first Watch Night services took place. On that night, enslaved and free African Americans gathered in churches and private homes all across the country awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. At the stroke of midnight, prayers were answered as all enslaved people in Confederate States were declared legally free. Union soldiers, many of whom were black, marched onto plantations and across cities in the south reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation spreading the news of freedom in Confederate States. Only through the Thirteenth Amendment did emancipation end slavery throughout the United States.
Freedom In Texas
Not everyone in Confederate territory would immediately be free. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until much later. Freedom finally came on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as "Juneteenth," by the newly freed people in Texas.
But Texas Was Not The Last State
Because Delaware was a border state between the North and South, Lincoln’s order did not apply to slaves in the First State. The last complete census in 1860 found 1,900 people living in slavery in Delaware. Most of those were in southern Delaware’s rural Sussex County, although smaller numbers were held throughout the state. Those still held in slavery on June 19 would not be freed until December of 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified.
The 14th Ammendment
Africans Enslaved By Native Americans
Native American territories were not under the rule of the United States government. So with the Emancipation Proclamation, their slaves were still not freed. If we simply go by the dates on which the Tribes ratified these treaties, slavery in the continental United States came to an end as a legal institution on June 14, 1866, when the Creek Tribe agreed to abandon African-American slavery. The was, somewhat ironically, the day after Congress approved the Fourteenth Amendment.