The writer of a recently published letter (Denise Shames, June 21) was correct in pointing out that American slavery did not end on Juneteenth, but mistaken in stating that it was ended by the Emancipation Proclamation.

The proclamation is short and clear. By its terms it freed slaves only in places then “in rebellion against the United States,” which included Texas. It had no effect whatever on the border states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland and Missouri, or on 19 listed Southern counties under federal military control. In other words, it applied in those places where the government could not enforce it, and not in those places where it could.

Enslaved persons in some of those exempted places remained legally in bondage for weeks or months after Juneteenth. Slavery did not end in Kentucky until the 13th Amendment came into force on Dec. 18, 1865.

The end of slavery is certainly worth celebrating, and if we choose to do that on June 19, that’s fine. But we owe it to slavery’s victims to get their history right.

Bill Shumaker

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