On the June 12 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera falsely claimed that the June 19 holiday of Juneteenth “commemorates the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.” Juneteenth actually commemorates June 19, 1865 -- well over two years after the proclamation was signed -- when Black Texans were first informed about the proclamation and the last enslaved people in the former Confederacy were finally free.
Rivera’s incorrect commentary was in response to criticism from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (and others) of President Donald Trump’s plan to hold a campaign rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The city also saw the Tulsa race massacre of 1921, in which dozens to hundreds of Black citizens were murdered and ethnically cleansed from the city. The mobs razed over 1,200 homes within 24 hours on June 1, and the Oklahoma public schools ignored the massacre in their curriculum for nearly a century.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by then-President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, but did not go into effect until January 1, 1863. For people enslaved in the Confederacy, it essentially legitimized an already existing phenomenon where enslaved Black people would escape behind Union Army lines, and Union commanders generally refused to return people they considered Confederate military “contrabands,” on account of their being used for free labor. Importantly, the Emancipation Proclamation redefined the Civil War as a fight against slavery, not just rebellion. However, the proclamation did not apply to people enslaved in border states that remained with the Union -- for them, freedom would not come until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.