On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln gave his Emancipation Proclamation speech that declared, “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and forever, free..” This was to go into effect on January 1, 1863. However it would take an additional two and a half years for these momentous words to begin to come to fruition. It was on June 19, 1865 when Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and proclaimed the end of the Civil War. As a result of the war ending, General Granger declared all slavery in Texas was legally abolished.
This historic day known as Juneteenth, also referred to as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day or Jubilee Day, only recently became a legal holiday in Texas in 1980. Other states soon followed. Although this landmark day of June 19, 1865 initiated a tide of change, the fight against racism continues.
While Juneteenth celebrations and customs vary, at the core of all festivities lies the reminder of the resounding plight African Americans endured for freedom in the Unites States.
For further discussion on the importance of Juneteenth, we would like to direct our readers to A Virtual Conversation about Juneteenth on June 19, 2020, 1:00pm – 2:00pm. This event is organized by the Departments of African American and African Studies and History at Rutgers University-Newark and co-sponsored by the Newark Public Library.