What is Juneteenth?
On June 19, 1865, Major Gen. Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, to inform a reluctant community that President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier had freed the slaves and to press locals to comply with his directive.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger declared in a general order.
“This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
The announcement spurred confusion in Galveston, and former slaves who acted on their new freedom were often targeted with violence, according to Henry Louis Gates Jr. However, a year later, the black population of Texas held the first “Juneteenth” celebration.
According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, Juneteenth is the “oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.”
The holiday quickly became popular in Texas, according to Gates. Celebrations often included readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and religious sermons and spirituals. Observance of the holiday slowly spread across the country from Texas, but lost traction in the 20th century.
However, celebrations made a resurgence following the Poor Peoples March in 1968. In an interview with the Smithsonian, Dr. William Wiggins Jr., who has written about the holiday, said Rev. Ralph Abernathy held a celebration on the last day of the march.
Wiggins said he believes the holiday then “took on a life of its own” as people brought with them when they left Washington D.C.
The day is an officially recognized day in 45 states. In 2012, the Pennsylvania House passed a resolution to declare every third Saturday of June to be as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day.”
Where does the name “Juneteenth” come from?
Juneteenth is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” in honor of the day that Granger announced the abolition of slavery in Texas.
How do people celebrate?
On social media, many shared photos of Juneteenth parades that took place over the weekend and others call on the day to be recognized as a national holiday.
The weather stayed perfect today! This is me in my official Grand Marshal role for the Juneteenth Atlanta Parade! Loving the Black love! pic.twitter.com/RuT1u4SaFq
— DR. RASHAD RICHEY (@Rashad1380) June 17, 2017