BlackFacts Presents - The History of Juneteenth


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JUNETEENTH - A Celebration of Freedom.

Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and nineteenth) is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day.

It is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It is now celebrated annually on the 19th of June throughout the United States.


During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. It became effective on January 1, 1863.

This Proclamation declared that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were freed.

More isolated geographically, planters and other slaveholders had migrated into Texas from eastern states to escape the fighting, and many brought enslaved people with them.

Although most lived in rural areas, more than 1,000 resided in both Galveston and Houston by 1860. By 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.

Despite the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, the western Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2.

On Monday, June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived to Galveston, Texas, to enforce the emancipation of its slaves and oversee a peaceful transition of power.

The Texas Historical Commission and Galveston Historical Foundation report that 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 labour. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not... allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

It was from that moment that Juneteenth would be born.


Formerly enslaved people in Galveston celebrated after the announcement. The following year, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what became the annual celebration of "Jubilee Day."

On January 2, 1866, a Galveston newspaper, reported on an Emancipation Celebration:

The colored people of Galveston celebrated their emancipation from slavery yesterday by a procession.

Notwithstanding the storm some eight hundred or a thousand men, women and children took part in the demonstration.”

Flake’s Bulletin, 2 January 1866.

Early celebrations were used as political rallies to give voting instructions to newly freed slaves. Early independence celebrations often occurred on January 1 or 4.


In the late 1970s the Texas Legislature declared Juneteenth a “holiday of significance, particularly to the blacks of Texas", becoming the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday.

The bill passed through the Texas Legislature in 1979 and was officially made a state holiday on January 1, 1980.

Recognition of Juneteenth varies across the United States. It is not officially recognized by the federal government, although the Senate unanimously passed...

...a simple resolution in 2018 in honour of the day, and legislation has been introduced in Congress to make it either a "national day of observance" or a full-scale federal holiday.

The only three states yet to legally recognize Juneteenth as either a state or ceremonial holiday are Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

In 2020, Juneteenth was formally recognized by New York City (as an annual official city holiday and public school holiday, starting in 2021)


The holiday is considered the "longest-running African-American holiday" and has been called "America’s second Independence Day".

Juneteenth is usually celebrated on the third Saturday in June. It was common for former slaves and their descendants to make a pilgrimage to Galveston.

Observance today is primarily in local celebrations. In many places Juneteenth has become a multicultural holiday, Including lectures and exhibitions on African-American culture.

Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs and reading of works by noted African-American writers.

Celebrations include picnics, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, blues festivals and Miss Juneteenth contests.

Historian Mitch Kachun considers that celebrations of the end of slavery have three goals: "to Celebrate, to Educate, and to Agitate."

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