The History and Significance of Juneteenth

This article was originally published on June 19. 2020.

Many people recognize the holiday Juneteenth, as the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is only considered as a state holiday in 48 out of the 50 states in the United States. However, activists are working hard to make it a national holiday. People also recognize Juneteenth by its other names which include Freedom Day, Liberation Day, and Jubilee Day. This important holiday is celebrated on the 19th of June.

The History Of Juneteenth

Dating back to 1863, Robert E. Lee, a Confederate General, surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, but slavery had remained unaffected in Texas, the state experienced no fighting or significant presence of Union troops. Moreover, many former slave owners from other states moved to Texas, as they viewed the state as a safe area for slavery.

Two years later, in 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas to inform African Americans about the end of the Civil War, and informed Texan citizens about the liberation of freedom. However, emancipation didn’t happen overnight for everyone. Some slaveowners held the information the general gave to them until after the harvest season had passed. Once everyone heard of the news, celebrations were hosted by the newly freed African Americans, developing the holiday Juneteenth. General Granger’s statement also put an effect on the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed around two and a half years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation was first established to make enslaved people from the Confederate party free, but the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all enslaved people immediately. The Emancipation Proclamation was changed to ensure the liberation of slavery for all people in the United States leading to the mostly slavery-free country we live in today.

In 1866, one year after General Granger’s order, the first Juneteenth anniversary celebration took place. To this moment, Juneteenth is still honored as an important holiday. Many rodeos, races, parades, Miss Juneteenth contests, and barbecues are typical for an outdoor Juneteenth celebration. Due to quarantine, everyone is taking to social media to share their love for this extraordinary holiday and spreading awareness about racism. Recently, the Black Lives Matters movement has been quieted, however, this holiday is helping people remember to not give up on the cause as justice has not yet been served for many including Breonna Taylor. Happy Juneteenth and remember that the Black Lives Matter movement is not a mere trend, it’s a life-changing matter.