It is the name for a holiday celebrating June 19, 1865, the day when Union soldiers arrived in Texas and spread the word that President Lincoln had delivered his Emancipation Procalamation. News traveled so slowly in those days that Texas did not hear of Lincoln’s Proclamation, which he gave on January 1, 1863, until more than two years after it was issued!
The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Thus, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most , the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.
Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated each year since 1865, it wasn’t until June 3, 1979, that Texas became the first state to proclaim Emancipation Day (Juneteenth) an official state holiday. But it is much more than a holiday. Juneteenth has become a day for African Americans to celebrate their freedom, culture, and achievements. It is a day for all Americans to celebrate African American history and rejoice in their freedom.
June 19, 2016
Statement by the President on the Observance of Juneteenth
Just outside the Oval Office hangs a painting depicting the night of December 31, 1862. In it, African-American men, women, and children crowd around a single pocket watch, waiting for the clock to strike midnight and the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect. As the slaves huddle anxiously in the dimly lit room, we can sense how even two more minutes seems like an eternity to wait for one’s freedom. But the slaves of Galveston, Texas, had to wait more than two years after Lincoln’s decree and two months after Appomattox to receive word that they were free at last.
Today we commemorate the anniversary of that delayed but welcome news. Decades of collective action would follow as equality and justice for African-Americans advanced slowly, frustratingly, gradually, on our nation’s journey toward a more perfect union. On this Juneteenth, we remember that struggle as we reflect on how far we’ve come as a country. The slaves of Galveston knew their freedom was only a first step, just as the bloodied foot soldiers who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge 100 years later knew they had to keep marching.
Juneteenth is a time to recommit ourselves to the work that remains undone. We remember that even in the darkest hours, there is cause to hope for tomorrow’s light. Today, no matter our race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, we recommit ourselves to working to free modern-day slaves around the world and to honoring in our own time the efforts of those who fought so hard to steer our country truer to our highest ideals.
For more: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/19/statement-president-observance-juneteenth
US Minorities Civil Rights Timeline 1863-1963 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)
US Minorities Civil Rights Timeline 1964-2016 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)