NEED TO KNOW: What is Juneteenth?
On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, ending slavery in the United States. Over two years later, on June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas with word that the enslaved people in the US were free and the Civil War was over. The marking of that day in 1865 has grown into a time to memorialize the struggle of formally enslaved people.
...[A]ll 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. -Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. - JUNETEENTH.com
WHAT IS JUNETEENTH?
In the years after Emancipation, as formerly enslaved people moved around the country seeking lost family and opportunities, stories about celebrations on that day in Texas went with them. As time went on, those stories and celebrations evolved into Juneteenth.
The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date. JUNETEENTH.com
The popularity of the holiday was little known outside of African-American communities for the first half of the 20th Century.
The holiday's profile was raised during the 1960s Civil Rights fight. In 1980 Texas made Juneteenth a state holiday.
Since then, marking June 19 as an American day of celebration and remembrance has spread across the country.