Four Interesting Facts About Juneteenth

Although most Americans are familiar with the American Civil War ending slavery, fewer are familiar with the last on-the-ground implementation of abolition.

Juneteenth, which also goes by the names of Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day, marks the anniversary of when the last group of slaves in the United States were told of their freedom.

On June 19, 1865, a Union force commanded by General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas, and informed the slave population that they were free.

Every year, Juneteenth is marked with a host of celebrations across the United States, including marches, barbeques, prayer meetings, and educational endeavors.

Here are four interesting facts about Juneteenth, including its connection to the Emancipation Proclamation, the largest celebration, and the effort to make it a national holiday.

The Emancipation Proclamation

Juneteenth is connected to the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and officially took effect New Year’s Day, 1863.

However, the Proclamation contained exemptions for slaveholding territory that was under Union control. Furthermore, throughout the Civil War, Texas was largely untouched.

“Lincoln’s proclamation would have little impact on Texans at that time due to the small number of Union troops available to enforce it,” explained the Galveston Historical Foundation.

It was not until General Granger arrived with around 2,000 Union troops in June, around two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, that freedom came.

Granger informed the local population about the Proclamation ending slavery through his General Order No. 3.

“Granger’s men marched through Galveston reading General Order, No. 3 at numerous locations, including their headquarters at the Osterman Building,” the Foundation added.

Struggle in Support

While Juneteenth is generally considered the longest-running celebration for an African American centered holiday, having first been observed in 1866, there have been times when it struggled to gain support.

“Economic and cultural forces led to a decline in Juneteenth activities and participants beginning in the early 1900s,” noted Juneteenth.com.

“The Depression forced many people off the farms and into the cities to find work. In these urban environments, employers were less eager to grant leaves to celebrate this date. Thus, unless June 19th fell on a weekend or holiday, there were very few participants available.”

Interest and involvement in the holiday bounced back in popularity during the latter half of the 20th century, thanks to the 1960s civil rights movement and Texas making it a state holiday in 1980.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski