For those who don’t know today, we celebrate Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth Celebrations around the USA aim to increase knowledge and appreciation of the roles, achievements and contributions of African Americans to our society and pay tribute to this important milestone in our nation’s history – the annual commemoration of the end of slavery, when our nation finally and truly became the land of the free.
Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
To learn more about Juneteenth, professor Henry Louis Gates explains the origins and significance of a celebration to an end of slavery in “What is Juneteenth?”