The History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth or “Freedom Day” is an American holiday that is celebrated by many in the black community annually. Its origins can be traced back to Texas, where the last remaining enslaved black Americans living under the Confederacy had yet to hear or see President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation being carried out.
“Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.”
Although the abolition of enslaved black Americans in the United States wouldn’t happen until the 13th Amendment was adopted on December 18, 1865, the original intention of Juneteenth was an opportunity for the black community to celebrate the enacting of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. It was also an opportunity for black people across the nation to come together to pray, enjoy each other’s company with food and festivities, and to connect with remaining family members. A family reunion of sorts, which is another annual tradition that is common in our community.
Unfortunately even though the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment had declared that black people were free from enslavement, they still faced great challenge as slave owners in the South were not ready to let go of their “free labor force.” Later, Jim Crow laws would make it harder for Juneteenth celebrations to take place, which caused celebrations to wane in many states and become nonexistent for decades.
Even though many attempts have been made to the United States Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, it is still only recognized as a state holiday. It is celebrated annually in 47 states, with Texas being the first state to recognize the day as a state holiday in 1980. As Juneteenth celebrations spread beyond the community, organizations and institutions began to participate. The focus of the celebration also broadened to include black achievement in addition to freedom, including celebrations of freedom in African, Caribbean, and Latin countries, and amongst Indigenous tribes as well.
Many in the black community attribute Juneteenth to being their Independence Day as opposed to July 4 because, although the nation gained independence from Great Britain in 1776, black people’s independence had been and would continue to be taken away from them in the form of enslavement, Jim Crow-era segregation, and ongoing racism.
For many black Americans, it can be a challenge at times to celebrate July 4. It should have been a day of freedom for all but that wasn’t the case. So while the celebration of Juneteenth should be observed by all Americans, it is of special significance for black Americans. Nonetheless, June 19, 1865 marked a turning point in American history and it is worthy of national recognition and commemoration by all.
Ways To Celebrate Juneteenth
Educating yourself and your family on the history of Juneteenth is a great place to start, especially since its origins is a part of Texas history. Read a book, attend a celebration, talk to your family about it.
Learn About Juneteenth
- National Registry of Juneteenth Organization and Supporters
- What Is Juneteenth?
- UT Dallas Juneteenth Virtual Celebration
- Juneteenth Needs To Be A National Holiday
Juneteenth Celebrations In Collin County
(Due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, the events posted will either be virtual or in person with social distancing requirements. In-person celebrations could also be subject to change.)
Additional Juneteenth Resources
- Juneteenth Activities and Worksheets for Kids
- Black-ish “Juneteenth” Episode (Video)
- Juneteenth: Stay Black And Alive: Music and Spoken Word Virtual Celebration
- 10 Children’s Books Celebrating Juneteenth (Ages 5-18)