Juneteenth may not be a nationally recognized holiday, but it is a staple in the African American community. It is a day to celebrate the emancipation of slaves in Texas in 1865. In June 1865 Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to proclaim the war had been won and all slaves were emancipated.
General Order 3
“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.”
Why is Juneteenth two years after the Emancipation Proclamation?
Then President, Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law with an effective date of January 1, 1863. There are many theories as to why the news took so long to travel to the southernmost states. Some theories suggest that the original messenger was murder in route, while others suggest that slave masters withheld the information to maintain the labor force on their plantations. While no one knows what really happened, we celebrate despite the two and a half year delay.
How do we celebrate?
On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America. Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities. In recent years, a number of local and national Juneteenth organizations have arisen to take their place alongside older organizations – all with the mission to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture.
Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.
The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. This indeed, brightens our future – and that is the Spirit of Juneteenth.