“Juneteenth” (June 19) marks the day slaves in Texas first learned slavery had been abolished. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed and in effect since January 1, 1863, the news didn’t reach the Lone Star State until June 19, 1865. Naturally, it was cause for a grand celebration.
Since then, generations of African-Americans in states around the nation have marked Juneteenth, or African-American Independence Day, with celebrations both large and small that can last a day or a week.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news the war had ended and the enslaved were now free.
This was actually two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. With the surrender of General Robert E. Lee in April of 1865 and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Sadly, America still has a long way to go in terms of how people treat one another.