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 free!