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The History of Juneteenth and Mexico


James E. Johnson Jr. • Jun 17, 2010

Saturday, June 19, is the 145th anniversary of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 that Major General Gordon Granger read General Order #3 in Galveston, Texas, which informed former slaves that President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The order freed slaves in territories rebelling against the federal government as of January 1863. Even for snail mail two and a half years is a long time for news to travel.

As if that delay were not tragic enough, Blacks in Texas could have been freed as early as 1830, when Texas’ exemption from Mexico anti-slavery laws would have expired had it remained a part of Mexico.

On December 6, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (considered the Father of Mexican independence) proclaimed the abolition of slavery in Mexico.  However, it was not until Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821 that slavery was banned and the law called for the death penalty for those who opposed the ban. Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain was the first war fought on the North American continent where abolition of slavery was a central theme.

The next major conflict dealing with the abolition of slavery was when U. S. immigrants to the Mexican state of Texas rebelled against the Mexican government because they wanted to keep slavery intact.  The U. S. government came to the aid of the break-away region of Texas in 1845 by annexing it, which triggered the Mexican-American War.

The outcome of the Mexican-American War meant that thousands of Blacks who would be free in Mexico (including the present day U.S. states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah) became slaves in America, not because they crossed the border but because the border crossed them.

The original Juneteenth marked the freeing of Blacks in Texas 74 years, 7 months after the proclamation by Father Hidalgo of the abolition of slavery in the Texas territory. As they say, better late than never.

Oh, by the way, the first North American president of African descent Vicente Guerrero, who was an ex-slave, emancipated all the slaves in the Mexican Republic on September 15, 1829.

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