Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s. But its meaning and origin are still not widely known throughout the world. Not only was this day important to African Americans in the past, but its importance remains today. Here, we take a look at this prominent day in history, and how it helped to shape our future.
June 19, 1865
About two months after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, Gordon Granger, a Union General, arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform previously enslaved African Americans of their newly established freedom. This day was June 19, 1865, and the Civil War was finally over. Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had actually been decreed more than two and a half years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln.
Celebrations broke out among newly-freed African Americans, and thus, Juneteenth was born. Later that December, slavery in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment, which says:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
The following year, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what they termed “Jubilee Day” on June 19. Each year since, Juneteenth commemorations have featured music, barbecues, prayer services, and other celebration activities.
The name “Juneteenth” was created by combining June and 19. Some other names for this holiday are Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, and Emancipation Day.
In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Today, 47 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.
Keeping the Tradition Going
In partnership with the Bluffton MLK Observance Committee, we are proud to be hosting the 7th Annual Bluffton Juneteenth Celebration. We are so honored to have the opportunity to raise up our community’s African American population and commemorate all that they have overcome throughout history.