Monday, June 19, 2017

Juneteenth: Remembering Emancipation

Juneteenth as described by the Library of Virginia...

...has grown into a popular event across the country to commemorate emancipation from slavery and celebrate African American culture. Juneteenth refers to June 19, the date in 1865 when the Union Army arrived in Galveston and announced that the Civil War was over and that slaves were free under the Emancipation Proclamation. Although the proclamation had become official more than two years earlier on January 1, 1863, freedmen in Texas adopted June 19th, later known colloquially as Juneteenth, as the date they celebrated emancipation. Juneteenth celebrations continued into the 20th century, and survived a period of declining participation because of the Great Depression and World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s Juneteenth celebrations witnessed a revival as they became catalysts for publicizing civil rights issues of the day. In 1980 the Texas state legislature established June 19 as a state holiday.

Emancipation                                                        Thomas Nast, American, 1865

It's not a federal holiday but there will be official state celebrations of this historic event in forty-three states. 

The idea that Juneteenth was the most fitting day to celebrate emancipation has faced competition from several significant days including September 22: the day Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Order in 1862;  January 1: the day it took effect in 1863; January 31: the date the 13th Amendment passed Congress in 1865, officially abolishing the institution of slavery; and December 6: the day the 13th Amendment was ratified that year.  The persistence of the day's celebration in Texas embedded it in the social fiber of former slaves and their families who carried it with them in their migrations to all corners of the nation and to urban areas in particular.  Growing wealth among black communities in the 20th century also enabled them to hold lengthier and more elaborate celebrations.  

Despite a near-century of prejudice and racism, both de jure and de facto, Juneteenth survived across the nation. It was revitalized nationally by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (April 4, 1968), in combination with his Poor People's March on Washington (planned for May 12 to June 24, and its early conclusion with the Solidarity March on June 19.  

We extend our best wishes for a joyous day to all those celebrating Juneteenth.   And it's the perfect time for all of us to "honor the countless contributions made by African Americans to our Nation and pledge to support America’s promise as the land of the free."

For more about the history of this significant day in American history visit the Juneteenth World Wide Celebration site.


Photos and Illustrations:
Library of Congress at

Text:, The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross 
"honor the countless" quote,

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