Juneteenth History

Juneteenth History

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an annual holiday celebrated on June 19th in the United States to commemorate the ending of slavery. For more than a century, Juneteenth was observed mainly in Texas and parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. In recent decades, communities across the nation have adopted the holiday.

June 19th marks the day in 1865 when word reached African Americans in Texas that slavery in the United States had been abolished. More than two years earlier, on New Year’s Day, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Delivered during the American Civil War, this proclamation ordered the freeing of all slaves in states that were rebelling against Union forces. The proclamation had little effect in Texas; where there were few Union troops to enforce the order.

News of the proclamation officially reached Texas on June 19, 1865, when a Union general backed by nearly 2,000 troops arrived in the city of Galveston. The general, Gordon Granger, publicly announced that slavery in the United States had ended. Reactions among newly freed slaves ranged from shock and disbelief to jubilant celebration. That day has been known ever since as Juneteenth, a name probably derived from the slang combination of the words June and nineteenth.

Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year. Within a few years they had spread to other states and became an annual tradition. Celebrations often opened with praying and religious ceremonies and included a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. A wide range of festivities entertained participants, from music and dancing to contests of physical strength and intellect. Food was central to the celebrations, and barbecued meats were especially popular.

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