What is Juneteenth? - Geneva College
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What is Juneteenth?

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Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19th, is an important day in American history. Celebrations of this holiday began in Galveston, Texas, but are now celebrated all across the country and internationally. What is the history of Juneteenth?

July 4, 1776 is historically the United States Independence Day, but many Americans were not free at that point in history. While this day marks the United States’ break from the control of England, African Americans remained in slavery for nearly another century. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and yet many Americans still were not free. At this point, the emancipation proclamation could not be enforced in areas that were under Confederate control. Since Texas was the furthest southwest state, it became even more of a hotspot for slavery, and also the last state where the emancipation proclamation was able to be enforced.

2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation, on June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger led Union troops into Galveston, Texas and announced the liberation of the 250,000 enslaved people living in Texas. Although some enslaved people were still not immediately freed, this day was remembered as the Independence Day of enslaved people in Texas. Thus, June 19th became a historic day as the day which marked freedom for all people.

On December 6, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was signed into law. It stated, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” With this, slavery was formally abolished in the United States. On June 19, 1866, freedmen in Texas began the first celebration of Juneteenth, also called Jubilee Day, and celebrations would continue annually for decades to come. Not everyone celebrates Juneteenth the same way, but many celebrations include music, barbeque, prayer, and other activities.

Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday in 1979. From there, other states began to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. It was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021. It continues to be celebrated by Americans across the country and is also celebrated internationally.


-Mattigan Burleigh '24

Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

Jun 19, 2023

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