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This Week in History

This Week in History

This Week in History: June 19-25 – Lesson


(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Juneteenth, the emancipation of slaves, and the first official seal of the United States.

“The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.” ~ Aldous Huxley

June 19, 1865: Texas Ordered to Free Slaves – Juneteenth

June 19, also known as Juneteenth, is a day to remember and celebrate giving slaves their freedom in Texas. This was the last state to do so after the Civil War, and it wasn’t until Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read the order that said, in part:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States [President Abraham Lincoln], all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves…”

The Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed January 1, 1863, only freed slaves in Confederate states, so Texas was a place where slavery was still going on. In took more than two years before the last of them were freed, and an estimated 250,000 enslaved blacks were finally emancipated. The next year, the freed slaves held the “Jubilee Day” celebration on June 19, which would eventually catch on to the rest of the states under different names such as “Freedom Day” and “Emancipation Day,” before becoming the Juneteenth we know today.

great seal

(Photo by: PHAS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

June 20, 1782: Congress Adopts the Great Seal of the United States

The colonies were in the middle of the Revolutionary War, trying to gain independence from the British. At the time, America had just 13 colonies that would become states, but the colonists were determined to establish independence, and doing so meant creating a viable government and honorable symbols that represented their liberation. Aside from the Founding Father’s documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and eventually the Constitution, this also meant creating a national flag and official seal.

On July 4, 1776, America united to declare themselves a separate nation and the Continental Congress approved the creation of the Great Seal. They put John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson in charge of starting the design process.  It was a long ordeal, lasting six years during the Revolution, and three different groups submitted proposals. But on June 13, 1782, the committee gave the chore to Secretary Charles Thomson.

Thomson used ideas from the three previous proposals as well as his own designs to craft the Great Seal. In just a week, he had come up with a two-sided design that included the bald eagle on one side and the eye of providence with a pyramid below it on the other side.

The design presented to Congress was only a written one, without any drawings as examples, but it was approved that day on June 20, 1782, and has remained unchanged ever since.


Custer’s last charge (Photo by: HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Other Notable Mentions

June 19, 1953: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of providing information on the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union During World War II.

June 23, 1865: Cherokee leader and Confederate Brigadier General Stand Watie surrendered his troops, which included American natives in the Oklahoma Territory, making this the last formal surrender by the South in the Civil War.

June 24, 2010: Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister. She was a lawyer before entering politics.

June 25, 1862: The Seven Days Campaign began during the Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee led troops on several assaults that prevented the Union from taking Richmond, Virginia.

June 25, 1876: General George A. Custer and his men attacked the Sioux Indians near Little Bighorn River in Montana. Known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” only one scout and one horse from Custer’s soldiers survived the battle, which led to a war against the Sioux Nation.

June 25, 1950: The Korean War began.

June 25, 1991: The republics of Croatia and Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia following the collapse of Soviet Rule.

Famous Birthdays


Lou Gehrig (left) (Photo by New York Times Co./Getty Images)

Lou Gehrig (June 19, 1903) was born in New York City. He was a famous baseball player with the New York Yankees who played in 2,130 consecutive games as well as seven World Series. He contracted a muscle disease that was named after him: Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Audie Murphy (June 20, 1924) was born in Kingston, Texas. An actor and military hero, he was the most decorated soldier of World War II, receiving 37 medals and decorations. He single-handedly turned back the Germans by climbing atop a tank destroyer and firing the machine gun.

Jean-Paul Sartre (June 21, 1905) was born in Paris, France. He was a philosopher and is known as the “father of existentialism.” He wrote about what it means to exist as a human. He turned down the Nobel Prize he had been awarded for Literature in 1964.

Prince William (June 21, 1982) was born as William Arthur Philip Louis in London.

George Orwell (June 25, 1903) was born as Eric Arthur Blair at Motihari in Bengal. A British satirist, he is known for works such as 1984 and Animal Farm.