What the Heck is Juneteenth?
In this era of cell phones and social networking, it’s easy to forget news did not always travel so quickly. Case in point: even though Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862, slaves in Texas did not learn of their freedom until nearly two and a half years later!
Can you imagine finding out that you were no longer a slave, and that you had actually been free for the past two years?
Juneteenth celebrates the day Texans finally got wind of this tremendous news!
Here’s the story in a nut shell: Union General Gordon Granger, backed by federal troops, took possession of Texas on June 18th, 1865. The very next day, General Granger gave a public reading of the Emancipation Proclamation from a balcony in Galveston.
The date can vary: Juneteenth is the annual holiday celebrating this historical event, and is often celebrated on both June 18th and 19th.
Other states celebrate Juneteenth: Texas isn’t the only state to celebrate Juneteenth, but it’s not a federal holiday. I had never heard of Juneteenth until I moved to Texas. I’m surprised it’s not more widely known.
How do People Celebrate Juneteenth?
In the beginning, Juneteenth celebrations were more like political rallies than parties. These gatherings served an important purpose, to let former slaves know what their rights were as free citizens. I’m not sure who came up with the name Juneteenth, but it’s far catchier than “Emancipation Day” or “Freedom Day,” which is probably why those synonyms are not as widely used.
Nowadays, Juneteenth celebrations are treated more like the Fourth of July. Some folks host private parties, while others find local events to attend. Are there any Juneteenth celebrations happening where you live?
Here in Texas, Juneteenth has been officially recognized as a holiday since 1980. While banks and state offices remain open, some people choose to take a day or two off for observance.
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