Today is Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, which commemorates the emancipation from slavery in the United States. In honor of the day, and the critical turning point it represents, we rounded up six facts:
- As historian Henry Louis Gates explains in this post, Juneteenth (a portmanteau of sorts of June and 19th) marks the day in 1865 when the Union Army’s Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, and declared that all slaves were now free.
- This event happened two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but Lincoln’s freeing of the slaves was only on paper, and the ongoing Civil War prevented freedom from becoming a reality as many plantation owners withheld the news.
- Juneteenth marked a turning point in the fight to free fellow humans from the bonds of slavery, and African Americans in Texas celebrated it as a day of freedom. There were other options for an official holiday marking the end of slavery, including September 22, which was the day in 1862 when Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Order on January 31, the date the 13th Amendment passed Congress in 1865 and officially abolished the institution of slavery. However, it was Juneteenth that stuck.
- In 1979 Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Now the day more widely represents the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans.
- While it’s not an official national holiday, Juneteenth is now a state holiday or a day of observance in most states and the District of Columbia, with only Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, and the Dakotas holding out. For those that do celebrate, parades will take place around the country, including in New York, Texas, and Philadelphia, and communities across the country will host barbecues and picnics to celebrate the historic event.
- This year, many are also calling for a day of action as a reminder that the struggle for equality and racial justice is far from over.
For more ideas on how to celebrate freedom, head here.