What is Juneteenth?

The History Files

You’ve probably seen it appear on your calendar, heard about it on the news and now seen it signed into law as a national holiday. So, just what exactly is Juneteenth?

Short for “June 19”, it basically memorializes the end of slavery in the United States.

June 19, 1865 marks the day when federal troops showed up in Galveston, Texas to seize control of the state (Texas was a southern, Confederate state in the Civil War that had just ended two months earlier) and see to it that the enslaved people were indeed freed.

The Civil War had raged from 1961-1865, until Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia, in April of 1865.

During that time, President Abraham Lincoln had signed The Emancipation Proclamation that freed all enslaved peoples in the Confederate south. (They were already free in the Northern states, that was a big reason for the Civil War.) This freedom was not enacted however, due to obvious disagreements.

When the war ended, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved peoples were still relatively unaffected. It was then, that General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas and read General Orders No. 3:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

General Orders No. 3

From that day, Texas’ 250,000 enslaved peoples were free. In some places celebrations broke out immediately, in others, even that news was withheld until after the harvest. Nonetheless, Juneteenth had been born.

Early Juneteenth celebrations

It was in December of 1865 that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted that formally and forever abolished slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth, also called Jubilee Day, is celebrated with barbques, parades, prayers, music and other activities.

Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday and today, President Joe Biden signed it into law marking Juneteenth a national holiday.

Cheers to you.

Debbie

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