You guessed it, Juneteenth is short for June Nineteenth, and on that particular date of June 19th, 1865 troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that ALL ENSLAVED AFRICAN AMERICANS BE FREED.
You would think this was an amazing thing, except for the fact that the troops showed up almost 3 years AFTER the signing of the “Emancipation Proclamation” which I must say did not free all slaves.
Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States, it’s also considered the longest-running African American Holiday.
Why did Texas take so long to do what other states had done after the passing of the emancipation proclamation? Slavery continued because the state experienced no large-scale fighting or presence of the Union troops. Numerous enslavers from outside of Texas moved to Texas, they saw Texas as an opportunity to continue owning slaves and a safe haven for slavery. When the war came near its end in the spring of 1865, a general arrived in Galveston, Texas which gave “hope” to the 250,000 enslaved African Americans.
Nothing happened overnight, enslavers held information from the Union until it was beneficial for them, which was after the harvest season. Celebration broke up among newly freed African Americans, then Juneteenth was born. Slavery was for “formally abolished” with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.
What happened after 1865?
The year after 1865, freed people in Texas organized the first annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19th. Commemorating Juneteenth in the ensuing decades included music, barbecues, prayer services amongst many other activities. More and more African Americans migrated away from Texas to other parts of the country and the Juneteenth tradition spread at the same time.
In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official recognized holiday. Presently, 47 other states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. You would think that’s such a great thing right? but let’s look at the fact that Juneteenth is not a national holiday and efforts being made have been stalled in congress, while “thanksgiving” is recognized nationally.
“I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglas.