What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the oldest known annual observance commemorating the abolishment of slavery in the United States of America. The Juneteenth Independence celebration dates back to June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas. It was there that Union soldiers delivered news that the Civil War had ended and enslaved African Americans within any state were free.
Two years prior to Juneteenth Independence, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within Confederate states be freed. However, the Proclamation's measure had little impact on states in rebellion as there were few Union troops there to enforce President Lincoln's Executive Order. The arrival of Major Granger and his regiment influenced Confederate opposition.
The response of the news and change amongst the former enslaved may have ranged from hesitation to immediate departure from the South to the North. Since, Black people have experienced challenges and small victories in establishing themselves as citizens of the United States.
Juneteenth became a celebration of freedom, achievement, gathering family and communities, with food and entertainment, spiritual-religious ceremonies, cultural storytelling, and pilgrimages to Galveston, Texas. Today, Juneteenth takes on a symbol of pride in African American experiences and ancestral roots.
History of the Civil War
Shortly after Abraham Lincoln was elected president, southern states began seceding form the Union (or the United States of America). Jefferson Davis became the president of these states in succession: Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The Southern states, also known at the Confederate States of America, formed the Confederate Army, who were in opposition to President Lincoln's plan to contain slavery and states' rights in the United States.
The Confederate Army's attack on Fort Sumter prompted the Union to establish an army comprised of soldiers from twenty states. The long-standing American Civil War began in 1861, men and women of all ethnic groups participated, until the Union Army secured victory in 1865.
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which would federally legalize the rights of enslaved African Americans in the Confederate States specifically; this measure did not include states that were not in rebellion with the Union. Under the Proclamation, slavery was not essentially outlawed, ex-slaves were not granted citizenship, and slave owners were not compensated for their loss of chattel (slaves as property).
The Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation goals were to maintain the Union and an effort to abolish slavery. In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment passed by two-thirds vote, and ratified to ensure the abolition of slavery; however, in the years to come, this had its drawbacks in regards to the Civil Rights of African Americans and Jim Crow.
*Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary slavery, except as punishment for committed crimes (i.e. prison and prison labor).