Juneteenth 2020: What Is Juneteenth?

History of Juneteenth (June 19)

June 19, 2020
Sunday Morning in Virginia by Winslow Homer

This painting, by American artist Winslow Homer, depicts a family in a slave cabin with children being taught how to read from the Bible. 

Winslow Homer, Cincinnati Art Museum

June 19 is Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day). This holiday celebrates the end of slavery and the achievements of African-Americans. Below, learn the meaning and history behind Juneteenth.

In 2015, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth in our Almanac EXTRA! magazine. Below is an updated article about this holiday.

What Is Juneteenth?

A verbal shorthand for the nineteenth of June, Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger read General Orders, No. 3, to the people of Galveston, Texas, reminding them that all slaves in the state had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. 

In effect since 1863, the Proclamation had not actually been enforceable until after the Civil War ended (April 1865). Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with his troops to “remind” and enforce Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all slaves shall be free.

To be clear, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end all slavery in the nation. However, to quote the National Archives, the Emancipation Proclamation “captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators.”

Although the observance of Emancipation Day began in Texas, it has since spread to other states and even to other countries, under various names, including Juneteenth, Emancipation Day, and Freedom Day.

Image: First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln. Painting by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, 1864.
Source: U.S. Senate.

To commerate Juneteenth, below is the full Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

The original document is in the National Archives in Washington, DCSee the original pages as well as the full transcript here.

Source: The National Archives (archives.gov)

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