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Mon, 06.19.1865

Juneteenth National Freedom Day is Observed

Juneteenth Officers
at Wheelers-Grove, 1900

This date marks Juneteenth National Freedom Day. Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth is the oldest celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.  It was the name given to Emancipation Day (or Freedom Day) by African Americans in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in town and read General Order #3 to the people of Galveston.

It stated, "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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."  Officially the end of American slavery was declared on January 1, 1863, by (then) President Abraham Lincoln. his declaration was issued on September 22, 1862.

The observance of June nineteenth as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond and, in many states, is an official holiday.  Large celebrations began in 1866 and continue to the present. African Americans treat this day like the Fourth of July.  In the early days, the celebration included a prayer service, speakers with inspirational messages, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, and rodeo dances.  The tradition spread as Black Texans migrated.  Celebration of Juneteenth declined during World War II but revived in 1950 and fell away again during the 1960s as attention focused on expanding freedom for Blacks.

In 1976, after a 25-year hiatus, House Bill Number 1016, passed in the 66th legislature, declared June 19 "Emancipation Day in Texas," a legal state holiday effective January 1, 1980.   On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation into law, making it a national holiday in all 50 states.  The celebration of Juneteenth continues.


Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and
African American Experience
Editors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Copyright 1999
ISBN 0-465-0071-1

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