What is Juneteenth Day and Why Do We Celebrate?
Juneteenth is a holiday marking the end of slavery in the United States.
In the confusion and turmoil as the Civil war drew to a close, many blacks
did not immediately learn of General Robert E. Lee’s April, 1865 surrender
to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia. In fact, Texans fought
on through May, when they finally learned that the war had truly ended.
When Union Army General Gordon Granger landed at the Texas
Port City of Galveston to take command of the military district of Texas,
one of his first actions after landing in June, 1865, was to read
General Order #3 to the people of Galveston.
General Granger read, “The people of Texas are informed...all slaves are
free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of
property between former masters and slaves...”
Thus, June 19th (Juneteenth) - became the emancipation date of those long
suffering for freedom, the newly freed slaves of Texas.
This tradition of celebration has remained strong well into the 21st century
and is celebrated in many states throughout the nation. Juneteenth is
honored like the Fourth of July, with prayer services, inspirational
speeches, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, stories from former
slaves, picnics, games, rodeos, dances and festivals.
The celebration of
Juneteenth is a multi-cultural recognition of the triumph of the human
spirit over the cruelty of slavery. For African-Americans, it is a
tribute to the strength, endurance and faith of their ancestors. For all
of America it is a reminder that none of us is free until all of us are