By African American Museum in Philadelphia
Editor’s note: This blog post from our friends at the African American Museum in Philadelphia first ran on June 18, 2011. We changed some of the dates to make the museum’s anniversary current with this week.
Last weekend, the African American Museum in Philadelphia celebrated its 36th anniversary. This is an important milestone for our institution, but the dates on which we celebrate – June 18th and 19th – have a poignant meaning that reaches back to much further than our own founding.
It was on these days in 1865 that the Union Army brought news of emancipation to African Americans in one of the farthest corners of the Confederate States, Galveston, Texas, effectively marking the death-knell of slavery in the United States.
Many of us were taught in school that the American Civil War was fought solely to end slavery in the United States. In truth, while this may have been the case for some sympathetic whites in the North, and was certainly the case for many African Americans, enslaved and free, who foresaw the implications of this conflict on their status within the nation, it wasn’t until the middle years of the war that ending slavery took on any real sense of urgency for the federal government and its troops.