Happy Juneteenth! This holiday marks the end of the official institution of slavery in the United States, and was historically widely celebrated by black Americans. The photo above is of a 1905 celebration in Richmond, Virginia.
On this day in 1865, enslaved people in Texas were informed of their freedom, two years following the Emancipation Proclamation. Also on this day, the Civil Rights Act of 1963 was passed, after an 83 day filibuster in the US Senate. This is the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, meaning that official chattel slavery ended in the United States only six generations ago.
This is an important day to remember and honor all those who struggled against this titanic evil- those whose names we know, and the countless others whose resistance was not recorded and lost to history.
This Day in History: Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United Sates. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
TODAY is our Independence Day! While whites had centuries of celebrating July 4th as their Independence Day WE were PROPERTY that had NO BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS. WE celebrate Juneteenth because our freedom was hidden from us for years. Slaves were not aware of their freedom until years after slavery was abolished. White history will tell you the delay was due to “news traveling slowly” but we all know it doesn’t take two years to let everyone know that slavery had been outlawed. On June 19th, 1865 Over 250,000 slaves were freed in Texas alone, this day is reserved as the official Independence Day for blacks in America. HAPPY JUNETEENTH!
Two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the Civil War, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger steamed into the port of Galveston, Tex. With 1,800 Union soldiers, including a contingent of United States Colored Troops. Granger was there to establish martial law over the westernmost state in the defeated Confederacy.
On June 19, two days after his arrival and 150 years ago today, Granger stood on the balcony of a building in downtown Galveston and read General Order No. 3 to the assembled crowd below.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” he pronounced.
This was the first time many in the crowd had learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, which President Lincoln had issued two and a half years before.
White slaveholders had suppressed the news of the decree freeing the slaves in Confederate territory not under Union control.
“We all walked down the road singing and shouting to beat the band,” a Texas freedwoman recounted.
“Black men pitched their hats high in the muggy June air,” according to another report.
“Men and women screamed ‘We’s free! We’s free!’ ” Others left town, in what became known as “the scatter.”
The jubilation following Granger’s announcement in Galveston moved across Texas, quickly reaching the state’s 250,000 enslaved people.
A year later, a spontaneous holiday called Juneteenth — formed from the words June and nineteenth — began to be celebrated by the newly freed people of Galveston and other parts of Texas.
In 1867, Austin, the state capital, saw its first Juneteenth celebration under the direction of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the federal agency created to provide relief to people displaced by the Civil War.
Embraced as an exuberant day of jubilee, Juneteenth combined a history lesson and a political rally with the gospel hymns and sermons of a church service.
Barbecue was soon added to the mix — this being Texas — with strawberry-flavored red soda water to wash it down.
In time, rodeos, baseball games and family reunions all became part of Juneteenth tradition.
As former slaveholders attempted to maintain their control, this display of freedom was often met with violence.
Juneteenth revelers sought the relative safe haven of black churches — a poignant irony given the tragedy on Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C. Some of these churches began raising money to buy land on which to mark Juneteenth.
In Houston, two black congregations collected pennies and nickels until a 10-acre parcel was purchased for $800 in 1872 and named Emancipation Park, which is still used today.
The festival of freedom spread across the former Confederacy in the late 19th century.
And as African-Americans moved north, they carried this celebration of liberation with them.
As Isabel Wilkerson wrote in “The Warmth of Other Suns,” her prizewinning account of the Great Migration: “The people from Texas took Juneteenth Day to Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, and other places they went. Even now, with barbecues and red soda pop, they celebrate June 19, 1865.”
Granger’s order was momentous, but it was no magic bullet. Even with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865, the emancipated people of Texas, and the rest of America, confronted violent resistance as they attempted to claim the promise of their liberation. Any small gains came in the face of whips and guns, followed by the well-documented decades of Jim Crow laws and Klan terror.
Officially neglected, over time Juneteenth lost much of its resonance in the black community.
But it has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Spurred by a revival of pride in African-American traditions long denied or suppressed, Juneteenth has gained official recognition — although not necessarily full legal holiday status — in a number of states, starting, appropriately, with Texas, which made Juneteenth a paid holiday for state employees in 1980.
Still, 150 years after its birth, Juneteenth remains largely unacknowledged on America’s national calendar. Many Americans are unaware of its existence, or its roots. Sadly, that ignorance of Juneteenth reflects a deeper issue: the continued existence of two histories, black and white, separate and unequal.
Frederick Douglass voiced that fundamental divide in a memorable speech on July 4, 1852. “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me,” he said. “This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.”
Juneteenth is the flip side of the Independence Day coin. One hundred and fifty years after General Granger told the enslaved people of Texas they were free, Juneteenth is viewed by many of those who are aware of it as an “African-American holiday.”
That perception unfairly diminishes the fundamental significance of Juneteenth. The day should be recognized for what it is: a shared point of pride in the symbolic end of centuries of racial slavery — a crime against humanity and the great stain on America’s soul. As meaningful as Independence Day itself, Juneteenth completes the circle, reaffirming “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as the rights of all, not a select few.
is one of the most important events in our nation’s history. On “Freedom’s
Eve” or the eve of January 1, 1863 the first Watch Night services
took place. On that night, enslaved and free African Americans gathered in
churches and private homes all across the country awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation
had taken effect.
the stroke of midnight, prayers were answered as all enslaved people in the
Confederate States were declared legally free. Union soldiers, many of whom were
black, marched onto plantations and across cities in the south reading small
copies of the Emancipation Proclamation spreading the news of freedom.
not everyone in Confederate territory would immediately be free. Even
though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not
be implemented in places still under Confederate control. This meant that in
the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be
free until much later. On June 19, 1865 that changed, when enslaved African
Americans in Galveston Bay, TX were notified by the arrival of some 2,000
Union troops that they, along with the more than 250,000 other enslaved
black people in the state, were free by executive decree.
Publishers throughout the North responded to a demand for copies of Lincoln’s proclamation and produced numerous decorative versions including this engraving by R. A. Dimmick in 1864. National Museum of American History, gift of Ralph E. Becker.
post-emancipation period known as Reconstruction (1865-1877) marked an era
of great hope, uncertainty, and struggle for the nation as a whole.
Formerly enslaved people immediately sought to reunify families, establish
schools, run for political office, push radical legislation and even sue
slaveholders for compensation. This was nothing short of amazing! Not even
a generation out of enslavement, African Americans were inspired and empowered
to completely transform their lives and their country.
my opinion, Juneteenth (as that day was called by the freed enslaved people in
Texas) marks our country’s second independence day. Though it has long been
celebrated among the African American community it is a history that has been
marginalized and still remains largely unknown to the wider public.
historical legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of deep hope and urgent organizing
in uncertain times. The National Museum of African American History and Culture
is a community space where that spirit can continue to live on – where
histories like this one can surface, and new stories with equal urgency
can be told.
Tsione Wolde-Michael is the Writer/Editor for the Office of Curatorial Affairs, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is also a Doctoral Candidate in History at Harvard University.
anyway juneteenth should be celebrated and recognized more than the fourth of july bc it embarks the REAL FREEDOM of millions of enslaved africans and not a bunch of old white men writing on a stale piece of paper about how only rich white men deserve rights and that’s that
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, following the end of the Civil War, Union General Gordon Grander issued General Order No. 3 to free the remaining enslaved people in the United States — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln.
The order said: “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 free laborer.”
Juneteenth celebrations are held to reflect, celebrate, and remember the continued contributions of African Americans to the United States.
Juneteenth is lit but it’s hard to enjoy it with the 13th amendment looming over our heads as proof that it’s not over and they really do mean to make slaves out of us for life. On the bright side it’s a reminder that we’ve fought and won over this in the past with our continued efforts.