Juneteenth: A Brief History
**This is a very brief history of how Juneteenth became a day of celebration for Black Americans. If you want to learn more check out our references at the end of the post.**
The American Civil War kicked off on April 12, 1861, between the Union (north) and the confederacy (south) on the basis that the confederates wanted to keep slavery and the Union wanted it abolished. After about a year and a half of fighting, President Abraham Lincoln wanted to find a way to end the war. I have read/heard many versions of how President Lincoln came to the idea of proposing freeing the enslaved peoples, none of which are necessarily super great, but he did it. On September 22, 1862, President Lincoln issued the order known as, Emancipation Proclamation, which stated, “All persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are, and henceforward shall be free.” Though the order was issued in September, it did not get signed and go into effect until January 1, 1863.
Many free and enslaved people were waiting to see if the order would be signed and allowed to go into effect, and they celebrated when it did. Black Union soldiers marched to plantations all across the south to make sure the enslaved people knew they had been freed. But not everywhere got the news.
One place that seemed largely untouched by the war was Texas. They didn’t see any large-scale fighting or even a noticeable presence of Union soldiers. This made Texas a safe haven for enslavers, many of which moved to Texas during the war to ensure they could keep their enslaved workforce. The enslaved people of Texas were left in the dark about the fact that they had been freed, until June 19, 1865, a full two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
The Civil war ended on April 9, 1865. On June 19, 1865, some 2,000 Union soldiers led by General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to free the enslaved peoples. The announcement freed some 250,000 human beings and was the last state to recognize the executive decree.
The newly freed people immediately began trying to put their families back together, opening schools, and where allowed ran for office and pushed for “radical” legislation.
In June of 1866 freed men of Texas organized the first annual “Jubilee Day” celebrating June 19th with prayer, food, and music. As the freed peoples moved about the country the tradition spread around and became widely celebrated. It was seen as the United States’ second Independence Day. In 1979 Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday, followed slowly by most other states. It took an exceptionally long time and was shot down a few times but this year, 2021, the US Senate passed a bill making Juneteenth a national holiday.
Remember though that the Emancipation Proclamation was only an Executive Order which meant that it only had so much power. The real progress was made when congress passed the 13th Amendment, that officially (mostly) made slavery illegal. The 13th amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.
This isn't a holiday for white people to take over, it is a day for us to support members of the Black community. Donate to organizations that are working to undo the systems that perpetrate racism or that help give Black people opportunities they otherwise wouldn't have. Learn about why the enslaved weren't free until after the 13th amendment. Learn about Jim Crow and the reconstruction era.
Do not steal something that isn't ours.
**Info sourced from https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/historical-legacy-juneteenth and https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth and Ep. 391 What A Day Podcast by Crooked Media and The 1619 Project from The New York Times**