On June 19 America celebrates Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, on the birthday of the Emancipation Proclamation that abolished slavery in Texas and other former Confederate states in 1865.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States, where it is a day off for most of the population, and schools and businesses close down.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It effectively freed all enslaved people in the Confederate States that were fighting against the Union. This excluded five border states that were not rebelling against the Union - Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and Kentucky.
At the time, Texas was an isolated state and not a battleground for the Civil War, so there was no presence of Union soldiers. This meant that the Emancipation Proclamation didn't affect the slaves in the state. As a result, many slave owners from other Confederate states moved to Texas with their slaves, increasing the enslaved population in the state by thousands.
After the surrender of General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1865, the Civil War was officially over, and on June 19 General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston with 1800 Union soldiers and proceeded to take control of the state and put the Emancipation Proclamation in effect, freeing the 250,000 slaves that existed in the state of Texas.
"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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer".
-General Gordon Granger
The recently freed slaves took to the streets to celebrate, thus originating the holiday that would become known as Juneteenth, which literally means "June Nineteenth".
In December of 1865, the 13th Amendment was adopted and slavery was abolished in all of the United States.
Juneteenth becomes a Federal Holiday
Juneteenth is officially known as Juneteenth National Independence Day. It was first celebrated in Galveston, Texas, in 1866, and it quickly spread across many States in the nation, to become an annual celebration. It was recognized as a holiday in some states before 2021 when it was declared an official Federal Holiday.
On June 15, 2021, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was passed in the Senate, and the next day it was passed through the House of Representatives. An overwhelming majority voted for Juneteenth to be established as a Federal Holiday.
President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law on June 17, 2021, officially making it into a United States Federal Holiday.
- The spirit of joy during Juneteenth is still commemorated every year across America. People tend to organize community events and celebrations such as barbecues or potlucks, block parties, baseball games, and picnics.
- City halls, schools, and libraries display exhibitions about the history of Juneteenth, and schools often host art and writing competitions for their students.
- Many people display the Juneteenth flag, which consists of a rectangle that is half red, half blue, with a five-pointed white star in the center, surrounded by a 12-pointed star.
- There is also a special dish called the Marcus Garvey salad which is prepared on Juneteenth. It consists of black, red, and green beans and has been named after Marcus Garvey, an important Black activist from Jamaica.
Learn more about The origin and history of Juneteenth.
You might also want to read about Emancipation Day, its history, and observance.