On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order effective as of January 1, 1863, calling for the freedom of all slaves in the United States. However, it was not until two and a half years later on June 19, 1865 that this news had reached all areas of the country. On that day, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas along with his union soldiers to relay the message that the Civil War was over and all slaves were free from that point forward by reading General Order No. 3. Approximately 250,000 slaves were freed that day, long after the Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect due to a lack of union troops present in Texas to enforce it. In response to the news of their freedom, some of these former slaves remained on the plantations, but worked for wages. Many others left and travelled to different parts of the country to reunite with lost family members. Learning how to survive and thrive as free men and women in America without sufficient assistance or reparations posed its challenges for these newly freed slaves. However, Juneteenth (combination of “June” and “nineteenth”) became an annual celebration, reminding them of the day they were finally granted their freedom and providing reassurance and motivation to persevere.
Although its popularity has fluctuated at different points in American history, today, Juneteenth festivities have become a major part of American culture. Juneteenth is a day which fosters and promotes appreciation and respect for African American culture and history, honoring the struggles of those who were enslaved and the progress of the African American community. As a day of reflection, it also serves as an opportunity for citizens to become educated on the significance of the disgraceful treatment of African Americans throughout United States history. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, which spurred many massive protests around the country and the world, this year’s Juneteenth celebration will be especially poignant, serving as a reminder of the systemic racism that continues to plague the United States, and the work that needs to be done to dismantle it.
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Written by: Ariana Nilchian
If you would like to learn more about your rights or believe that you have been discriminated against please visit the Civil Rights Justice Center located at 2150 N. 107th Street in Seattle Washington or visit our website at civilrightsjusticecenter.com