History Lesson: Juneteenth
As the Black Lives Matter movement has become more nationally pronounced and prevalent in our day to day lives, so has the cognizance of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. We encourage you to read along as we shed light on the celebration on this holiday.
I’m sure you are familiar with the Emancipation Proclamation asserted by former President Abraham Lincoln. The executive order called for the immediate freedom of all enslaved people in the country. The order was signed on January 1, 1863. Juneteenth, however, marks the day when Union troops visited Galveston, Texas to ensure the proclamation was being enforced. That day actually occurred on June 19, 1865; two and a half years later.
Why? Well, the proclamation has very little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. Lincoln’s primary intention with the Emancipation Proclamation was to unify the states, but those who had seceded didn’t necessarily agree. Some slave owners from Confederate states even moved to Texas in an attempt to continue with their slave labor a bit longer since Texas wasn’t as regulated or visited. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally able to assert themselves over the state.
General Orders No. 3 read, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Even following General Granger's announcement, freedom was not immediate. Only a small fraction of enslaved people escaped to Union borders on Emancipation Day. Millions of others remained under the ownership of their masters. Some slave owners withheld news of the emancipation from their slaves. Some slaves were murdered instead, without even a chance at freedom. It’s a grim reality of the struggle and strife freed blacks faced in this country.
The following year, the celebration began amongst former slaves able to escape their labors. They traveled to neighboring states to reunite with family and indulge in food, dance, and prayer. In general, the day is to be a joyous example of new beginnings and celebrations. Today, the festivities remain similar to those who do observe!
It hasn’t been considered a nationally-recognized holiday in the United States, though. We wouldn’t be surprised if you have never heard of the holiday yourself. It wasn’t even declared a state holiday in Texas until 1980! Of course, it is impossible to meticulously detail every intricate of the most important events of history within a single academic year, but more often than not, our historic moments in time may be overlooked.
The more you know! Happy Juneteeth 2020. We hope you take a step in the right direction and find ways to be an ally of all communities!