It's National End-of-Slave Importation Day today. Emancipation Day it might not quite be, but this day certainly does not get its due when we discuss the end of slavery. Quite significant it should be that on this day in history, the importation of slaves became illegal.
And, this was in 1808 -- decades and decades ahead of the Civil War. It would not be until the Civil War that slavery really ended, as slave trade within the U.S. continued for all those many years after this day when it was made illegal to import slaves from other countries. Still, this day remains very significant.
We already celebrate Jan. 1 as New Year's Day, so crowding it on the calendar as a day for celebrating freedom from slavery probably isn't going to catch much traction. I suppose we could mark March 3 as the day, for it was on that day in 1807 that the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves was enacted. That means, we have the 210th anniversary just around the corner on March 3, 2017.
But, the law didn't go into effect until Jan. 1, 1808, which is the earliest date allowed by the U.S. Constitution. "The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight," it says in Article I, Section 9.
It is meaningful that the Founding Fathers placed in the Constitution a mechanism for ending slavery. One can wonder if they thought to end all slavery Jan. 1, 1808, but failed to word the Constitution so that it covered slaves already here. Or, perhaps this was the best the forefathers could do, as many proponents of slavery were among them.
And, it is meaningful that the leaders of the nation took the first date possible to end the importation of slaves.
So, with all else you are doing today, you might pause to observe this as a day when the U.S. became one of the first nations in semi-modern history to outlaw the importation of slaves. The practice continued in other nations, but the U.S. set forth a standard.