Although Juneteenth was a two days ago we wanted to make sure the articles on it were of high quality, and believe the importance of Juneteenth should be celebrated year round.
This year 24 states and the District of Columbia will legally recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday this year. Which means that state government offices are closed and state workers have a paid day off.
We celebrate Juneteenth as the day the general Gordon Granger and Union forces came into Galveston, Texas declaring the Civil War over and slavery ended. The date was June 19th, 1865. Slavery had officially been put to an end with the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863 and the Civil War had been over since April 9th, 1865, however an estimated 250,000 enslaved people were still in Texas.
Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, however the western Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2. On June 19th Granger’s men marched throughout Galveston reading General Order 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. 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”
The following year, “Jubilee Day” was celebrated by freedmen in Texas. Early celebrations were often used as opportunities to register Black peoples to vote. But in some cities in the state, Black peoples were barred from using the parks, and as the following decades saw the rise in Jim Crow, white America quickly sought to disenfranchise the newly freed Black Americans.
However, you can’t crush the spirit of freedom and with the Civil Rights Movement Juneteenth saw a revival as Black people started tying the struggle to that of ending slavery. In 1979, Democratic State Representative Al Edwards of Houston, Texas, successfully sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a paid Texas state holiday.
By 2000 Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Minnesota had chosen to honor the historical significance of the day.
Sidenote of significance: Juneteenth is celebrated by the Mascogos, located in Coahuila, Mexico. Centered on the town of El Nacimiento in Múzquiz Municipality, the group are descendants of Black Seminoles who escaped the threat of slavery in the United States.
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