When Were Blacks Truly Freed From Slavery? For Juneteenth, The Root investigates the blurred line of emancipation in America. By: Hillary Crosley|Posted: June 15, 2012 at 12:22 AM Buyenlarge/Getty Images (The Root) -- Though President Abraham Lincoln ended slavery with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slaves in Texas had no knowledge of their freedom until two and a half years later. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston and declared the end of the Civil War, with General Granger reading aloud a special decree that ordered the freeing of some 200,000 slaves in the state. Because of the delay, many African Americans started a tradition of celebrating the actual day slavery ended on June 19 (also known as Juneteenth). But for some, their cheers were short-lived. Thanks to the South's lucrative prison labor system and a deceptive practice called debt peonage, a kind of neo-slavery continued for some blacks long into the 1940s. The question then arises: When did African Americans really claim their freedom? Chattel slavery in the classic sense ended with the Civil War's close and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Reconstruction followed, creating new opportunities for African Americans who owned and profited from their own land and dug into local politics. "It's important not to skip over the first part of true freedom," says Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War ll and co-executive producer of the eponymous documentary film. "Public education as we know it today and the first property rights for women were instituted by African-American elected officials."