What did the United States look like in 1860, only a half decade before Juneteenth? The enslavement of people was not just legal and common in much of the country. In huge—and growing—swathes of the country, more than half of the people were enslaved. That included parts of Texas near Galveston, where the Juneteenth proclamation was read. A myth of American history is that the practice of slavery would have died out on its own; in fact, it was growing and spreading rapidly in 1860.
I’ve often thought about adding 1870 to this map of slavery, showing no slavery in the decade following the Civil War. But it is still not the case that “all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk” and that “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”