Quick Summary (because I love to get to the point): Juneteenth is now a National Holiday recognizing the official end of slavery in the United States. Most slaves had already been freed in the Civil War, but Texas was able to maintain slavery until June 19, 1865 when General Gordon Granger arrived on the shores of Galveston, TX to enforce freedom for the slaves in Texas, who were considered the last group in slavery. While I am no scholar in Juneteenth studies, I am a legacy of what the power this day held. I am a 6th generation Texan so my ancestors were amongst the newly freed slaves on this day, so it holds an even more special place in my heart. Because Juneteenth is such a new holiday, below I have listed some facts that often go untold to help you celebrate this year.
1. It took 30 months!
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed January 1,1863, but slaves in Texas did not receive the news until June 19, 1865. There are many theories to why this happened, but because the Confederacy did not completely surrender until 1865, the most popular one is that the U.S. could not enforce the proclamation until the war had officially ended. Texas was so notorious for slavery that had emancipation not been enforced, the state would not have let it go. General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston,TX with 2,000 federal troops to announce the freedom of all slaves on June 19, 1865.
2. It wasn’t quite the freedom we had hoped for.
General Granger's order asked African- Americans who had been enslaved for almost 2.5 centuries to "quietly" continue working for the person who had enslaved them. We were "free" but no one would hire us but the slave owners we already had. Also, many plantations successfully continued to to hide the Emancipation Proclamation news from their slaves for almost another 2 years.
3.The Celebration of Freedom was dangerous.
Even after emancipation, newly freed slaves who left the plantations were still beaten, murdered, and lynched. Physical slavery had been outlawed, but mental slavery went on for years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
4. The work for true freedom began immediately.
The original Juneteenth celebration was called Jubilee Day, but it wasn't just a regular party. As excited as we were to be free, we knew we had to focus making that freedom actual equality. The early celebrators of Juneteenth pulled resources to purchase land and used this celebration to register African Americans to vote.
5. The fight continues with us.
Juneteenth is just as American as the 4th of July
It is extremely important that we recognize Juneteenth as an American holiday. Though, it may have started in Texas, it is acknowledged across the country as the official end to slavery in the United States. The emancipation of those who survived slavery after over 200 years should be celebrated by all Americans, and the fight for true justice and equality is now in our hands.