Annually on June 19th, communities across the country celebrate Juneteenth for it is the most popular celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day.
The Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 (becoming effective in 1863) only freed enslaved people in Confederate States. However, not all of the enslaved in Confederate territory were immediately freed since the executive decree could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. When the Civil War finally ended and all enslaved people had been freed, the news of freedom was slow to reach Texas. Enslaved African Americans in Texas would not learn of their freedom until two years later on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced the end of the Civil War and of slavery.
Although Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, 48 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation recognizing it as a holiday or observance. In 2020 – as the country experienced one of the largest social justice movements following the brutal, senseless killing of George Floyd –Juneteenth gained prominence on its 155th anniversary with calls to make it an official federal paid holiday.
While Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, it is also a reminder of the ongoing battle and crying need to end systemic racism, racial profiling, and discriminatory treatment for people of color today. Juneteenth reminds us that Black Lives Matter and there is much more work to do.
Below are several links for more history and interesting perspectives on Juneteenth.