Classroom textbooks have taught us all that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 marked the end of slavery in America. Although this is true on paper, it didn’t translate in practice. In fact, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865—2 years after the signature of the Emancipation Proclamation—that slavery effectively ended in America.
Therefore, Juneteenth is a commemoration of the end of Slavery in the United States. It was on June 19, 1865 that, Gen Gordon Granger and Union Soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced to the last 250,000 or so enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had ended and that they were now free.
There is still no clear explanation for why it took over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation for slavery to effectively end. But according to historians, the most popular beliefs are:
- slave masters deliberately kept this information from slaves in order to maintain the status quo
- a messenger with the news of freedom was murdered on his way to Texas
- Slave owners wanted to generate one last cotton harvest
Although Texas was the last state to end slavery, it was the first to make Juneteenth and state holiday in 1980.
The Juneteenth holiday is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence or Black Independence Day because it is to African Americans what 4th of July is the White Americans.
Today, it is a celebration of Freedom & Resilience but also a reminder of the work that still needs to be done toward racial equity and equality.
Happy Juneteenth !!
Learn more through the following programs:
Additional resources on African American History:
Black Heritage Trail – Boston, MA
Black Heritage Trail – New Hampshire
African American Heritage Trail – Washington, DC
Black Heritage Trail – Florida
Museum of African American History – Boston
National Museum of African American History and Culture – Washington, DC