Juneteenth is celebrated throughout the nation and as a state holiday in Michigan. On May 17 2021, Juneteenth was officially recognized as an annual holiday in the City of Ann Arbor via resolution by the Ann Arbor city legislator.
In thisresolution, the city council aptly stated: “Whereas, It is right that the entire Ann Arbor community join together to acknowledge the central and shameful role of slavery and government-structured racism in our history, and the moral imperative that we do all we can, resolved and united, to counter slavery’s enduring legacy of race-based discrimination and institutional racism; Whereas, This enduring legacy manifests itself starkly in the City of Ann Arbor, and greater Washtenaw County; Whereas, The candid acknowledgment of this history and this present is necessary if we, as a nation, state, or city, are to be successful in our effort to build a truly equitable, diverse community that exemplifies and promotes the fundamental American values of freedom, equality, liberty, and justice;”
History of Slavery in Ann Arbor
Because of Michigan’s location in the mid-West, slavery never officially expanded into this state. According to documentation from the Library of Congress “the Northwest Ordinance established a government for the Northwest Territory, outlined the process for admitting a new state to the Union, and guaranteed that newly created states would be equal to the original thirteen states. Considered one of the most important legislative acts of the Confederation Congress, the Northwest Ordinance also protected civil liberties and outlawed slavery in the new territories.” However, like in other states, individuals worked around these rules andillegally enslaved African people.
There is some evidence that because of Washtenaw counties’ close proximity to Canada, it served as a throughway on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a series of safe houses and routes that enslaved people utilized to reach freedom in Canada. While it is possible that enslaved people passed through Michigan to escape American slavery, it is less clear what impact Washtenaw county’s white residents had on assisting with this journey. “According to theAnn Arbor Public Library ‘There are many [underground railroad] stories, in which a family tradition or a physical quirk in a building is cited as evidence of participation in the Underground Railroad. Most are probably groundless. When it comes to the Underground Railway, ‘unfortunately it seems very clear that there’s a lot more mythical belief than reality,’ EMU historian Mark Higbee told the Ann Arbor News in 1996. ‘The Underground Railroad is the sort of thing that in the 1880s and 1890s people liked to say they were involved in, or their parents were involved,” adds another historian, John Quist. ‘It’s just hard to find contemporary verification and there’s a lot of embellishment going on.”
Local and Historical Impact
The Third Slavery Project:The Third Slavery Project (TSP) is a multi-pronged, multi-layered, coordinated initiative for locating solutions to the present-day problems of involuntary servitude, forced labor, human trafficking, and other contemporary forms of slavery-like practices which we conceptualize as the Third Slavery. We use the term “Third Slavery” to historicize newer forms and varieties of human slavery, in contrast to the “classical” slavery of pre-15th centuries and the trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan slaveries spanning the 15th to 20th centuries.The Third Slavery concept addresses the gaps in our awareness of, language for, knowledge about, and current redresses to human slavery. Despite noble efforts to abolish chattel slavery at the end of the 19th century, various forms of slavery, forced labour, or involuntary servitude have reemerged in the 21st century. More recent efforts to confront various facets of modern slavery-like phenomena, however valiant, seem disparate or disconnected. This new era of human exploitation that we call the Third Slavery is larger in scale and scope than most imagine. Third Slavery is a phenomenon that circumnavigates political, legal, economic, and cultural institutions, even with an enduring public mindset that slavery is a historic relic.We see a pressing need to end the Third Slavery. Too often new initiatives operate in a historical vacuum, suggesting the past is divorced from the present or future. Yet we know descendants of the second slavery carried with them the traumas of an earlier era; they inherited wealth inequities, racialized subordination, inferior access to education, and other barriers that re-positioned some to enter the Third Slavery. Accordingly, its eradication requires the multi-faceted approach of the Third Slavery Project partners who can leverage deep academic and historical expertise and practitioner expertise to deploy a scalable solution to address the complexities of modern-day human slavery.
Black Action Movement (BAM):When requests for increased black enrollment faculty hires were not granted by 1970, students called for a campus-wide strike. BAM (a coalition of the Black Student Union; Black Law Students Association; Association of Black Social Work Students; and black students from the Medical School and Department of Psychology) organized a 12-day campus shutdown. It received national attention and media coverage. Over 300 professors cancelled classes and many departments shut down. The strike was widely supported by non-BAM members, including white students. The U-M reached an agreement with BAM and issued a formal response to BAM’s list of demands. Then-President Robben Fleming agreed to work toward a goal of 10% African American enrollment by 1973. The University did not reach this goal. In the late seventies, BAM II continued the efforts to increase enrollment of Black students, and by 1987 BAM III and United Coalition Against Racism (UCAR) led protests that resulted in, among other milestones, the official recognition of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on campus.
African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County:The AACHM was established by 23 founding members in 1993 to document, collect, preserve and share African American History in Washtenaw County. The AACHM was a key partner in extensive research on nineteenth-century antislavery activism and African American community life with the University of Michigan Arts of Citizenship Program in 1999. The research was the foundation for the AACHM’s Journey to Freedom; an Underground Railroad Guided Bus Tour of Washtenaw County. Journey to Freedom, was accepted as an official member in the US Dept. of Interior, National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program in 2004. The research also produced an exhibit Midnight Journey, that tells the story of the UGRR in Michigan. It was recently on display at Grand Valley State University for the annual Michigan Freedom Trail Commission Conference.
The Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” – An excerpt from the Emancipation Proclamation
Review images of the Proclamation on the National Archives website. We have linked the full transcript here.
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution
Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. – An excerpt of the 13th amendment of the Constitution.