There are many important names and dates that come to mind when we think of the Black Freedom Struggle in the United States, and Juneteenth is most definitely one of them. Juneteenth, a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth”, is the oldest holiday commemorating the ending of slavery in America. June 19th, 1865, or Juneteenth, is now nationally observed as the African American Emancipation Day.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday.
But wait a minute, wasn’t the Emancipation Proclamation declared on January 1st, 1863? And wasn’t the 13th Amendment passed by Congress on January 31st, 1865?
Yes! Although many steps had been taken towards the abolishment of slavery in the United States, it had still not become official in many states. Slavery had continued in Texas, for example, as the state did not experience any intense fighting or heavy presence of Union troops during the Civil War. As time went by, many slave owners knew that slaves had been declared free but chose to withhold that information.
However, on June 19th, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. U.S. General Gordon Granger, once in Texas, read General Order No. 3:
As the news spread, celebrations broke out among newly freed people, and Juneteenth came to life. A few months later, in December 1865, slavery in America would be formally abolished with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. The next year, Texas freedmen and women organized the first “Jubilee Day” on June 19th. For the following years, Juneteenth celebrations included music, prayers, barbecues, and lots more. As African Americans migrated from Texas to other states, the Juneteenth tradition spread and became what it is today.
Texas went on to become the first state in the nation to make Juneteenth an official holiday in 1979. Now, most of the 50 states celebrate Juneteenth, either officially or unofficially. Whether your state celebrates it officially or not, take a second today to learn more, speak out, and do your part.
Juneteenth is a day of celebration, but the hundreds of years of slavery that occurred before are not erased from history. Let’s all do our parts by educating ourselves and fighting against hate.
Happy Juneteenth, Pride Palace Community!