The Juneteeth holiday marks the end of slavery in the United States and is one of the oldest African American holidays. It is the date that troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, after the Civil War, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Though celebrated for more than a century, it only became recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all enslaved people on January 1, 1863. Yet, it wasn’t until 1865 that slavery began to be abolished in the South. In Texas, slavery continued a few months after the surrender. There was little troop presence in the state, and it became a haven for slavers.1
On June 19th, 1865, Union troops arrived in Texas to force the abolition of slavery in the state. While it took until the following fall for all slaveholders to comply, the action ultimately freed 250,000 enslaved people. Six months later, the abolishment of slavery was added to the Bill of Rights under the 13th Amendment.1
Celebrations of the Juneteenth holiday began a year after the troops arrived in Texas. The first annual Texas celebration was called “Jubilee Day.” For decades, Texans continued to celebrate the day with music, barbeques, activities, and church services. Eventually, the celebrations spread to other states as African American families from Texas began to migrate. More than a century later, in 1979, the date became an official Texas state holiday.1
The celebrations for Juneteenth have grown over the years. Initially, most festivities included family gatherings and prayer services. Now, celebrations include pilgrimages to Galveston as well as festivals, parades, and local events. These are celebrated throughout the country and in numerous ways. Many families established their own traditions. Galveston still remains the place for the largest celebrations in the country for this important day.2
The federal government responded to the masses by officially declaring Juneteeth a national holiday. While the events in Texas are still the focus behind celebrations, it has also become a time for acknowledgment of the difficulties the African American community continues to face.2
1What Is Juneteenth?, History.com, https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth
2So You Want to Learn About Juneteenth?, NY Times https://www.nytimes.com/article/juneteenth-day-celebration.html
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This article was prepared by WriterAccess.
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