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Celebrating the End of Slavery

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday.

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Juneteenth, which is a mixture of June and nineteenth, celebrates the day the last American slaves were freed after the Civil War. It is the longest-running black holiday in America, which has also been called “Freedom Day” and “Emancipation Day” over the years. Though it has long been celebrated throughout the country, Congress and President Biden just established Juneteenth – or, as the legislation names it, National Independence Day – as a federal holiday in June of 2021.

The History of the Holiday

The Emancipation Proclamation, signed January 1, 1863, ordered all slaves in Confederate states to be freed. But it only applied to Confederate states – not those under Union control – and many slave owners refused to tell their slaves about their freedom.

For a while, Texas became the last haven for slavery. Eventually, however, General Gordon Granger arrived. In 1865, Granger traveled to Galveston and delivered General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Juneteenth Celebrations

That following year, freed slaves in Texas held the first of what would become a yearly celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19. These celebrations included a variety of different customs and traditions. Music, prayer service, social gatherings, and other activities became integral parts of Juneteenth.

As black Americans moved from Texas to other states, the holiday began to be celebrated across the country. Many African Americans would celebrate Juneteenth by making a yearly pilgrimage back to Galveston, where the proclamation was originally delivered by General Granger.

Today, Emancipation Day is celebrated in much the same way as it was in the past. Families commemorate the holiday in their backyards. Some cities hold grand events like parades and other types of festivities.

Juneteenth is a celebration of America finally addressing one of the darkest parts of her history. The abolition of slavery was a significant step toward righting a terrible wrong. Those celebrating the holiday are acknowledging that this was a point in history in which Americans decided to move closer towards living up to the ideals upon which the nation was founded. For this reason, Emancipation Day will continue to be commemorated by generations to come.

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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