June 19th is Juneteenth. In honor of this day, we would like to share a little history of the day and why it is important.
Juneteenth. America’s second Independence Day. A day of remembrance, a celebration of liberation. Juneteenth commemorates the day that all enslaved people were officially proclaimed free in the United States. This day was June 19th, 1865, when the Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger came to inform citizens of Galveston, Texas, that the battle had finally come to an end and the North had won. Texas was one of the last and only states to still have ownership over enslaved people, although the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation occurred almost two and a half years prior on January 1st, 1863. This historical document declared that all enslaved people in rebellious states, “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Due to a lack of Union troops in the primarily confederate state of Texas, enslaving people continued to be an issue until General Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. This is the major reason Juneteenth is so important as it not only marked the end of the Civil War but was also the day that released the last and final thousand enslaved people from captivity in America. Many people still visit Galveston, Texas to this day in honor of this historical moment.
Credited as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Ms. Opal Lee, an African American teacher, and activist began her campaign in 2016 in an effort to get Juneteenth acknowledged as a national holiday. Ms. Opal, at 89 years of age, pledged to walk 1,400 miles from her hometown in Texas to Washington D.C. in hopes to gain support and shed light on black history. She marched for 2.5 miles in certain areas of the country to represent the 2 and a half painful years it took the Emancipation Proclamation to be fully recognized in America. Due to her efforts, the United States Senate unanimously agreed to make Juneteenth a legal public holiday in June of 2021.