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A History of Juneteenth

by Samira George

(This article was originally published by Real Change and has been reprinted with permission.)

The Establishment

Also called Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, and Emancipation Day, June 19 has come to commemorate the end of U.S. slavery and is most known as Juneteenth.

After President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it took several years for enslavement to end in the most remote Confederate state, Texas.

It is a lesser-known fact that the emancipation applied only to the Confederate states — the 11 states that seceded from the Union in a states’ rights plea to ensure they could keep Black people as slaves.

The last place in the Confederacy still enslaving Black people was Galveston, Texas, where Confederate soldiers held a firm grip. Some historians theorize that the news of emancipation was either withheld or Confederate soldiers with guns forced continued enslavement.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers brought the news to enslaved Black Texans that they could go free. Newly freed Black Americans celebrated their liberation on that very June 19 in 1865. Since that day, the tradition has grown and includes Black community gatherings and political rallies.

Yet, while Juneteenth is a major historical event in African American history, it has largely been excluded from classroom history books and the American education system as a whole.

“We’re still feeling the after effects of Black codes, Jim Crow, and exclusionary laws. That hasn’t changed for us,” Washington State Rep. Melanie Morgan said. “I’m excited that this will be a holiday that will start educating people and educating our youth.”

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