23 Jun Biden Signs Juneteenth Bill
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which established that all enslaved people in Confederate states in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” But in reality, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t instantly free all enslaved people. In Texas, slavery continued and many enslavers moved there, as they viewed it as a safe haven for slavery.
Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. On June 19, 2021, 156 years after Maj. Gen. Granger announced the freedom of the remaining 250,000 enslaved people in Texas, “Juneteenth” was signed into U.S. law as a federal holiday by President Joe Biden on June 17, 2021. The president remarked that “all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history.” But how much have we learned from our past?
While the 13th Amendment officially ended overt forms of chattle slavery, clandestine forms of forced labor and sexual servitude have prevailed. Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that continues in the United States every day, hidden in plain sight.
Although we have federal legislation in place to combat human trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), it has had little effect in reducing the prevalence of this scourge. Victims often find themselves erroneously criminalized instead of protected, while offenders often evade punishment. All the while, unwitting third parties are being blamed publicly and in civil court.
As modern slavery evolves, so must the counter efforts to combat this crime. Juneteenth is a reminder that passing legislation doesn’t necessarily effectuate change. Justice must be actively pursued through collaborative efforts with law enforcement, service providers, business proprietors, and average people. Ultimately, the goal is to prevent modern slavery, protect victims, and prosecute offenders.
Written by Kate Beckham