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What is Juneteenth?

Happy Juneteenth! Also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day and Black Independence Day, this holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

To understand Juneteenth and its significance, its important to know its history.

When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, it declared that all enslaved people in the Confederate States of America, and not already in living in Union territory, were to be freed. The Proclamation had an effective date of  January 1, 1863.

However, it was not until June 19, 1865 – more than TWO years later – that General Gordon Granger and Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to the townspeople that the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were free. 

General Order No. 3 stated:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

The news “freed” an estimated quarter-million slaves in the area, many of which had no idea they were declared free people more than two years prior.

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The following year, the freed people organized the first of what became an annual celebration of Juneteenth throughout Texas, and eventually neighboring states.

Juneteenth’s popularity waned as the decades passed. In 1979, Texas state legislator Al Edwards introduced a bill to make Juneteenth a state holiday. The first state-approved celebration took place in 1980.

Today, Juneteenth is recognized as either a state holiday or ceremonial day of observance in 43 states and the District of Columbia. There’s also been a push by organizations seeking a Congressional designation of Juneteenth as a national day of observance.

Originally posted on June 19, 2019.

Comments (1)

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