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Juneteenth: Learn More

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is the name given to Emancipation Day by African-Americans in Texas.
black soldiers
“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.”
General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

Image via SFIst: All About Juneteenth, the Holiday Celebrating the End of Slavery

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, sometimes also called “Freedom Day” and “Emancipation Day”, or the nation’s “Second Independence Day,” takes place in Texas every year on June 19th. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, ordering all slaves to be freed in the seceding southern states. However, freedom would not come for all enslaved Black people until the end of the Civil War at the hands of the Union Army. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, where General Granger announced that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

There are scholars who argue that indeed the news of emancipation traveled more quickly and widely throughout the country than is given credence in the history books. There is evidence of large numbers of slaves escaping to freedom after hearing of the emancipation, and there is evidence of many of them joining the Union Army in order to help liberate others still held in bondage. Union General Grant praises and acknowledges the effectiveness and courage of the Black Regiments who fought in the effort to free their brothers and sisters from chains.

47 states and the District of Columbia have designated Juneteenth a holiday, Texas being the first to do so in 1980. An effort to make Juneteenth a national holiday finally succeeded with the passage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 16, 2021.

Quotes

Opal Lee, 94 year old activist from Ft. Worth, speaking before Congress in support of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

"Never before, millions have been aware of the atrocities that happened to the enslaved or the blatant disregard for human life that is now occurring, (which is) a residual effect of slavery."

- Lawmakers reintroduce Juneteenth Bill. This 94 year old will do "whatever it takes" to make it a National Holiday.

U.S. Senators propose a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

“Juneteenth is about reclaiming our history, rejoicing in the progress we’ve made, and recommitting to the work yet undone," said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in a press release announcing the measure.

- Senators Propose Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday.

Juneteenth : America's Second Independence Day

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John Powell
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