by Peter SchulteJune 19, 1865 C.E.
Though Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation came into effect in 1863, slaves in Texas and in many other Confederate-controlled territories were unaware of their freedom for many months following. The news of their freedom finally arrived to the people of Texas when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay on June 19, 1965. Union army general Gordon Granger announced General Order No. 3, proclaiming the freedom of more than 250,000 enslaved people.
Juneteenth, often dubbed America’s second independence day, has been an annual summer tradition in the African American community since 1965. The first Juneteenth celebrations usually centered around local church communities in Texas. After millions of African Americans migrated out of the South in what historians refer to as the Great Migration, Juneteenth traditions became popular around the country. As the holiday grew, Juneteenth celebrations took on a new personality and began to resemble similar American food celebrations like Thanksgiving.
Juneteenth celebrations became less common during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s but resurfaced in the 1970’s with an extra focus on Black liberation and the African American arts.
Although popular with Black communities for over a hundred years, Juneteenth remained largely unheard of by white Americans until recently. On June 17, 2021 President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law and Juneteenth became a federally-recognized holiday.