THE HISTORY OF JUNETEENTH
Dr. Charles Taylor, author
WHAT IS JUNETEENTH?
Juneteenth or June 19, 1865, is considered the date when the last slaves in America were freed. Although the rumors of freedom were widespread prior to this, actual emancipation did not come until General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and issued General Order No. 3, on June 19, almost two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

BUT DIDN'T THE EMANCIPATION
PROCLAMATION FREE THE ENSLAVED?
President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, notifying the states in rebellion against the Union that if they did not cease their rebellion and return to the Union by January 1, 1863, he would declare their slaves forever free. Neeedless to say, the proclamation was ignored by those states that seceded from the Union. Futhermore, the proclamation did not apply to those slave-holding states that did not rebel against the Union. As a result about 8000,000 slaves were unaffected by the provisions of the proclamation. It would take a civil war to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to formally outlaw slavery in the United States.

WHEN IS JUNETEENTH CELEBRATED?
Annually, on June 19, in more than 200 cities in the United States. Texas (and Oklahoma) is the only state that has made Juneteenth a legal holiday. Some cities sponsor week-long celebrations, culminating on June 19, while others hold shorter celebrations.

WHY IS JUNETEENTH CELEBRATED?
It symbolizes the end of slavery. Juneteenth has come to symbolize for many African-Americans what the fourth of July symbolizes for all Americans -- freedom. It serves as a historical milestone reminding Amricans of the triumph of the human spirit over the cruelty of slavery. It honors those African-Americans ancestors who survived the inhumane institution of bondage, as well as demonstrating pride in the marvelous legacy of resistance and perserverance they left us.

WHY NOT JUST CELEBRATE THE FOURTH 
OF JULY LIKE OTHER AMERICANS?
Blacks do celebrate the Fourth of July in honor of American Independence Day, but history reminds us that blacks were still enslaved when the United States obtained its independence.

WHY WERE SLAVES IN TEXAS THE LAST 
TO KNOW THAT THEY WERE FREE?
During the Civil War, Texas did not experience any significant invasion by Union forces. Although the Union army made several attempts to invade Texas, they were thwarted by Confererate troops. As a result, slavery in Texas continued to thrive. In fact, because slavery in Texas experienced such a minor interruption in its operation, many slave owners from other slave-holding states brought their slaves to Texas to wait out the war. News of the emancipation was suppressed due to the overwhelming influence of the slave owners.
 

WHY WE CELEBRATE

J -- Juneteenth represents the joy of freedom--the chance for a new beginning.

U -- Unless we expose the truth about the African-American slave experience, Americans won't be truly free.

N -- Never must we forget our ancestors' endurance of one of the worst slave experiences in human history.

E -- Every American has benefitted from the wealth blacks created through over 200 years of free labor and Juneteenth allows us to acknowledge that debt.

T -- To encourage every former slave-holding state to follow Texas' (and Oklahoma's) example and make Juneteenth a state holiday.

E -- Everyday in america, blacks are reminded of the legacy of slavery. Juneteenth counters that by reminding us of the promise of deliverance.

E -- Even on the journey to discover who we are, Juneteenth allows us to reflect on where we've been, where we're at and where we're going as a people.

N -- Never give up hope is the legacy our enslaved ancestors left. It was this legacy that produced black heroism in the Civil War and helped launch the modern civil rights era. It is this legacy we celebrate.

T -- To proclaim for all the world to hear, that human rights must never again become subservient to property rights.

H -- History books have only told a small part of the story; Juneteenth gives us a chance to set the record straight.

FREEDOM IS ALWAYS WORTH CELEBRATING!