On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with orders to enforce the recently passed 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery in America once and for all. This date marked the end of an era in American history, though there was one group of Americans who would not learn of their freedom until nearly two years later: enslaved African Americans living in southern states like Texas, where their former masters had been allowed to keep them even after the passage of the 13th Amendment in late 1865.
When did Juneteenth happen?
President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. While it included slaves in states that were still rebelling against union forces, it did not apply to those who lived within Union lines or areas that had already been occupied by Union troops (only about 10 percent of enslaved African Americans lived in those places). This meant that most enslaved African Americans remained as slaves for another two years. However, on June 19, 1865—about a year after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House—General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston Bay to enforce President Lincoln’s order and announce emancipation for all slaves.
Why do we celebrate Juneteenth?
Because it celebrates a crucial time in history when enslaved African Americans found out they were finally free. Juneteenth is an important holiday because it reminds us of some of our nation’s past mistakes as well as inspires us to take part in creating a brighter future. In recent years, many states have made June 19th an official state holiday, but you can celebrate any way you want. Whether it’s by barbecuing with friends and family or reading up on African American history or volunteering at your local shelter for people affected by homelessness, we hope you choose to find joy and meaning in Juneteenth so that we may together continue building on its legacy by fighting against racism and other injustices today.
How is this holiday celebrated today?
Today, people celebrate Juneteenth with picnics and outdoor parties that often feature barbecues. Many people also organize commemorative ceremonies and host essay contests to recognize those who struggled for freedom in their communities. Others attend plays that retell stories of slavery and emancipation. And while Juneteenth is mostly celebrated by African Americans today, a number of public celebrations have been sponsored by cities in states where few African Americans reside, and some Americans declare Juneteenth a shared holiday amongst all Americans.
Where can I learn more about Juneteenth?
We highly recommend checking out your local PBS station in America or PBS.Org. Also, be sure to check with your local libraries or school districts to see if they will be celebrating Juneteenth or offering events. If not, consider throwing your own event at a local park or classroom! You can do it yourself or gather a small group of friends who have an interest in learning more about history and culture for a fun day trip.
From African Slave Trade to Freedom
The history of Juneteenth is closely tied to slavery in America. It all started with an African slave trade that began in 1526 and lasted until 1807. Around two million enslaved Africans were brought to North and South America during those years. After 1807, Britain worked hard to stop slave traders from capturing African people. The practice of enslaving Africans didn’t go away, though; it just became illegal in many countries under various treaties after 1850. But slavery did not end completely at that time in most places around the world—including Africa and parts of Europe. In fact, slaves did not gain their freedom until 1865…in Texas!
Short-lived freedom and rampant persecution
Although African Americans were technically free on June 19, 1865, that freedom would be short-lived. The next year was a brutal one for black citizens throughout much of the South; they could not vote (or even openly participate in society), and they faced violence and persecution from white paramilitary groups. By 1867 President Andrew Johnson had suspended habeas corpus protections against unlawful detention and ordered thousands of Union Army troops to be stationed in ten Southern states to enforce political control of former Confederates and newly freed blacks. Most black men were banned from voting until 1870—and even then it took years for black men to win full voting rights again; women wouldn’t be allowed to vote until 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
Historical events on June 19th
June 19, 1776 – American Revolutionary War: Battle of Princeton–The Continental Army under George Washington defeats British forces. June 19, 1944 – World War II: The Battle of Cherbourg ends with a German surrender. –MM