Spotlight: Juneteenth

In 2021, following a tumultuous year of social protest against systemic racism triggered by the murder of George Floyd, the United States Congress officially declared Juneteenth a federal holiday, starting on June 19, 2021, through the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. Celebrated sporadically since the Civil War, the date commemorates the military order, issued by the Union Army on June 19, 1865, that formally ended the institution of slavery in the state of Texas. Since then, Juneteenth has become a celebration of not only the emancipation of slaves, but also the creativity and resilience of African American culture that emerged during slavery and evolved afterward. Juneteenth thus has served as an inspiration for the civil rights activism stretching from antebellum abolitionism to the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

This page features a curated selection of annotated bibliographies from existing subject areas in Oxford Bibliographies that address the history, perpetuation, and afterlives of slavery; the political movements and leaders that fought to emancipate enslaved African Americans and enfranchise them and their descendants; and how the racial concepts of slavery, freedom, and franchise have been understood across centuries of American law, society, and culture.

Gene Andrew Jarrett, Editor in Chief of Oxford Bibliographies in African American Studies

From Oxford Bibliographies in African American Studies

"In the eighteenth and especially nineteenth centuries, the antislavery movement attracted a significant number of Americans who believed that slavery was a moral evil and a political and economic detriment to the United States. Although abolitionists were, throughout most of their struggle, a beleaguered minority in the United States, their efforts to uproot an entrenched institution constituted one of the most significant social movements in American history."- Margot Minardi

"Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (BRFAL), or Freedmen’s Bureau, in March 1865 for “the supervision and management of all abandoned lands, and the control of all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen from the rebel states”."-  Aaron Astor

" The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, although in effect less than two decades, was one of the nation’s most controversial federal laws. Designed to provide southern slaveholders with greater assistance in the return of runaway slaves, it angered northern whites and blacks, divided communities, and yet still failed to assuage slaveholders’ concerns.”."-  Carol Wilson

"The era widely known as Reconstruction runs from 1865, the official end of the Civil War, to 1877, when Southern Democrats conceded the United States Presidency to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for his pulling federal troops from Southern territories. During this twelve-year period, federal forces were deployed in the South to enforce the policies of Reconstruction."- Gene Andrew Jarrett

"The Underground Railroad refers to efforts of “conductors” and “station masters” assisting slave “passengers” to escape from bondage. The term itself was not used until the late 1830s, although Runaways had plagued the South’s peculiar institution from its beginning."- Loren Schweninger

"From the first encounters of Africans and Europeans to the transatlantic slave trade to the abolition of slavery to emancipation and freedom, visual representations of slavery and enslaved persons proliferated in material culture, painting, print culture, sculpture, and photography. Contemporary artists continue to explore the visual representation of slavery in multimedia and new media."- Renee Ater

From Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies

"The study of women and slavery in the world and in Africa is relatively new. The first study focusing on enslaved women’s experiences was by Lucille Mathurin Mair on their resistance to slavery in the Caribbean, followed shortly by Boniface Obichere’s consideration of Dahomean women’s slavery in 1978. More widespread and sustained scholarly interest began in the 1980s, providing new perspectives on slavery in general and in particular."- Claire C. Robertson

From Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History

" The abolition of slavery in the Atlantic world occurred during the 19th century, but its origins are generally recognized to be the intellectual ferment of the 18th-century Enlightenment, the political turmoil of the Age of Revolution, and the economic transformations associated with the development of modern industrial capitalism."- Michael Guasco, Matthew Wyman-McCarthy

" For most of the past two millennia, Christian churches have not only accepted slavery, but have also participated in the slave trade and owned human property. The ethics of Christian slaveholding, however, have changed significantly. While Christians owned other Christians without controversy during the late ancient period, Christian churches began to forbid that practice over time."-  Katharine Gerbner

"The process of emancipation in the Atlantic world spanned most of the 19th century and took a variety of forms. Some, such as Haiti’s 1804 declaration of immediate emancipation and the United States’ Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment, followed long, violent conflicts. Other nations, such as Britain, attempted a more gradual transition to freedom in an effort to prepare both former slaves and slave owners for new social and economic systems."- Roderick McDonald, Michelle Craig McDonald

"Wherever slavery existed in the Americas, free people of color could be found. Despite the ubiquitous presence of free people of color during the era of Atlantic slavery, there is no comprehensive or general treatment of the topic. Most of the literature on free people of color situates their history in a very specific setting, usually a single country or colony, and most frequently a single town or city."- Matt Childs

"Enslavement has existed in world history dating back to the earliest records we have, and its lengthy existence has generated a considerable variety of laws. Its use rested upon various forms of domination (e.g., economic, military, cultural) and was routinely justified by reference to higher authority, such as religion or law. While voluntary enslavement was not unheard of—and could result in financial, social, or religious advancement for the slave—in most cases, slavery was detrimental and involuntary."- Sally Hadden

"The study of public memory and heritage of slavery emerged during the 1980s. In various former slave societies, the rise of the public memory of slavery and the development of specific projects to highlight the multiple facets of its heritage were carried out by social actors who identify themselves as descendants of the victims of the Atlantic slave trade and who attempted to denounce the present social and racial inequalities."- Ana Lucia Araujo

From Oxford Bibliographies in Victorian Literature

"Queen Victoria’s ascent to the throne coincided with the abolition of slavery (in law, if not in practice) in the majority of the British Empire, which was completed in April 1838. But far from disappearing from the national consciousness, the legacies of both slavery and emancipation shaped British life, politics, and letters for the rest of the century, and beyond."- Katie McGettigan

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