Juneteenth 101: Important Facts About America's Day of Freedom

From Emancipation to Celebration: 6 Must-Know Facts About Juneteenth

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As we commemorate Juneteenth, it’s essential to reflect on the historical significance of the day. Known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day, this holiday marks the end of slavery in the United States. Let’s explore the facts and facets that make Juneteenth a cornerstone of African American heritage.

1. Enslaved people in Texas were freed two years after the declaration was signed.

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Juneteenth, a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth,” commemorates the day on June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. This announcement effectively marked the freedom of the last enslaved African Americans in Texas, over two years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

 

2. Enslaver moved to Texas to avoid freeing enslaved people.

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The delay in the news of freedom reaching Texas is generally attributed to several factors, including significant communication barriers, as the slow spread of information in the 19th century was exacerbated by Texas’ geographic isolation. Additionally, resistance from slaveholders played a crucial role, as many slaveholders had migrated to Texas from other states to escape the impact of the Civil War.

3. Texas hosted the First Juneteenth Celebration.

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The first Juneteenth celebration took place in Texas in 1866. It was marked by community gatherings, feasts, singing, and prayer. These early celebrations set the tone for what would become a tradition of honoring African American heritage, culture, and resilience.

4. Juneteenth was first recognized as a State Holiday

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Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday in 1980, following the efforts of state legislator Al Edwards. Today, Juneteenth is recognized as a holiday or special observance in nearly all U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

5. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021.

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On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. This marked a significant acknowledgment of the holiday’s importance and the ongoing struggle for civil rights and equality.

“I have to say to you, I’ve only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as president,” President Biden said during a signing ceremony (via CNN). Adding, “By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history – and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we’ve come (and) the distance we have to travel.”

6. There is an official Juneteenth flag to celebrate the occasion.

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In 1997, Ben Haith, an activist and founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, created the Juneteenth flag. The flag, designed to represent the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, features a prominent star that echoes the star of Texas, where Juneteenth originated, and symbolizes freedom for all African Americans across the nation. Surrounding the star is a bursting outline, signifying a new beginning and the promise of the future. The red, white, and blue colors of the flag are a nod to the American flag, emphasizing that formerly enslaved people and their descendants are an integral part of the nation.

Juneteenth is an important holiday that sits on a very pivotal part of American history. If these facts have piqued your interest, don’t be afraid to dive deeper and learn more about Black Americans and their journey to freedom through the ages.

How did you celebrate Juneteenth? Share with us in the comments!

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