juneteenth freedom day

The importance of Juneteenth (June 19th) stems from ultimate perseverance and marks a pivotal point in U.S. history.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, the federal holiday (as of June 2021) commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States.

What’s the historical context behind Juneteenth?

The recognition of Juneteenth memorializes African American freedom made public-knowledge on June 19th, 1865. This was the date when General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved African Americans that the Civil War had not only ended, but they were free by executive decree.

General Order Number 3 which began with:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

The reason this date is so monumental is due to the ongoing struggle enslaved African Americans endured even two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The proclamation established that all enslaved people in Confederate states in rebellion against the Union were free. What many don’t realize is that the proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control. The Emancipation Proclamation was only the first step to ultimate freedom for enslaved African Americans.

Ever since June 19th, 1865, Juneteenth has been celebrated across the U.S. and is to date, the longest running African American holiday- celebrating perseverance leading to actual, total and absolute freedom.

How do I celebrate Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a day, sometimes a week or a month of activities and celebrations. Some celebrate by having family gatherings, others attend local or national events. It is a time for appreciation, reconciliation, and commemoration. Many also use this time to celebrate and acknowledge African American culture and to recognize opportunities for growth and improvement at a local and/or universal level.

Want to celebrate as a family? Check out PBS’s 5 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth With Your Family.

The best way to honor this holiday is to educate and advocate for this monumental day in U.S. history. Inform your friends, neighbors, coworkers of the importance of this day and continue the long-standing tradition of Juneteenth.

— Meg Hewitt is the Marketing Strategist for Concordia University Ann Arbor. She may be reached at megan.hewitt@cuaa.edu.

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