What is Juneteenth Day? Know about its significance in the history of the United States

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Juneteenth is one of America’s oldest nationally celebrated holidays and is observed each year on June 19 to mark the official end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Independence Day.

What is Juneteenth day?

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Juneteenth is the portmanteau of June and nineteenth and while it is not a federal holiday, it is recognised as a state holiday in over 45 US states.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is a Texas state holiday celebrated annually on the 19th of June throughout the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger announcing federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were now free.

It is also known as Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Independence Day.

On January 1, 1863, then-president Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that “all persons held as slaves” within the states in rebellion “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Even so, over 2.5 years after Lincoln’s proclamation, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive by hiding this information from them and holding them slaves for one more harvest season, as per the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

History behind Juneteenth

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On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and announced the end of both the Civil War and slavery. Since then, Juneteenth has become a largely symbolic date representing freedom for African Americans.

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” the Union general read aloud to the residents of Galveston, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

As per CRS, Granger’s announcement read the following, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. 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 Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, many of which continue in tradition today. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations.

A resolution to declare Juneteenth Day a national holiday is currently being evaluated by the U.S. House of Representatives.

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