What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth marks the end of slavery.
Juneteenth marks the end of slavery.
Not everyone has heard of Juneteenth, but it is an important historical milestone marking the day in 1865 that slaves in Texas learned they were free.

Recently, governors in Virginia and New York announced plans to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday. What does the day commemorate? Here is the rundown:

The background: On Jan. 1, 1863, with the nation at Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation said that "all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."

But the war raged on: "It was not until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that the state's residents finally learned that slavery had been abolished," recounts Encyclopedia Britannica online.
   Specifically, "Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with federal troops to read General Order No. 3 announcing the end of the Civil War and that all enslaved were now free," according to the New York State website.

The celebrations begin: The former slaves began to celebrate. One year later, on June 19, they celebrated again. That date is still observed as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day by African Americans, according to the United Methodist Church. "Celebrations have included parades, picnics, dancing, sporting events, music, plays, recounting of stories by former slaves, inspirational speeches, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, and prayer services."

A state holiday: In 1980, Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas. Lawmakers such as Sen. Bernie Sande, I-Vt., support making it a national holiday.



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