Juneteenth Freedom Day
Juneteenth is known to some in the United States as the second Independence Day. Celebrated each year, this holiday marks the end of slavery in Texas at the end of the Civil War, three years after President Abraham Lincoln had issued the proclamation. With expanded celebrations across the country after it became a national holiday in 2021, when the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was signed into law.
First Watch Night
On ‘Freedom’s Eve’, the eve of January 1, 1863, the first Watch Night services took place. That night, enslaved and free African Americans gathered in churches and private homes all across the country waiting for the news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. Prayers were answered at the stroke of midnight, as all enslaved people in the Confederate States were declared legally free.
The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery throughout the United States. But not all in the Confederate territory was immediately free. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, it took 3 more years in the Confederate state of Texas, for enslaved people to know freedom.
General Order #3
Juneteenth commemorates the General Order No. 3. Major General Granger issued the order on June 19, 1865. Freedom finally came on that day when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in that state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as, ‘Juneteenth’ by the newly freed people in Texas.
For more than 150 years, African American communities across the country have observed this holiday with social gatherings in parks and church services as well as other events. But Juneteenth has increasingly been celebrated nationwide, and in 2021 it became the first new federal holiday since the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. When Melynda Price, Jr. Professor of Law, and the John and Joan Gaines Professor of Humanities at the University of Kentucky, thinks of Juneteenth she thinks of hope, home, and of heritage. She was asked what Juneteenth means to her “As my older relatives used to say, we got together on the 4th of July because we were off (work), but we celebrated Juneteenth because that’s when we were free.”
This is a day of national pride and is celebrated with family, friends, food, festive music, and other activities to promote cultural awareness and community cohesiveness.
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