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Leeann Judkins


On June 19, 1865 during the third year (end) of the Civil War, nearly two years after President Abraham Lincoln emancipated enslaved Africans in America, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas with news of freedom.  More than 250,000 African-Americans embraced freedom by executive decree in what became known as Juneteenth – Jubilee Day, or Freedom Day.  It is the oldest nationally-celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.  It is celebrated annually on June 19th of each calendar year.

In a convoluted history of Juneteenth, the Galveston (Texas) Daily News wrote, “Formerly enslaved people in Galveston rejoiced after General Order #3.  One year later, on June 19,1866, freed men in Texas organized the first of what became annual commutations of “Jubilee Day. Early celebrations were used as political rallies to give voting instructions to newly-freed African-Americans in the United States.”

Additional educational facts concerning this important day include:

·      Following the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 – not all enslaved person’s (especially in confederate “southern” states) immediately found freedom. Written and delivered by Lincoln, it declared, in part, “That all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be, free.” The speech was delivered in a combat zone at Gettysburg, the third year of the Civil War, which began in 1861 and ended in 1865.

·      The Civil War ended in the summer of 1865.  Union General Gordon Granger and his troops traveled to Galveston, Texas to announce General Orders Number 3 on June 19, 1865.  Furthermore, June 19th would go on to be known and celebrated as Juneteenth.

·      Part of General Order #3 encouraged the newly freed persons to remain with their past owners.

·      The period after Juneteenth is known as the “Scatter.”  The day itself was named after the date of formation – June 19th.

·      Juneteenth has been celebrated under many names – Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Second Independence Day.

·      Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas was bought specifically to celebrate Juneteenth.

·      During the early 20th Century, Juneteenth celebrations declined.  Various entities dampened the freedom celebrations. 

·          Celebrations of Juneteenth continue today.  There is no official celebration in DeKalb County, Tennessee.

·      On June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which made Juneteenth a federal holiday.  It passed through the United States House of Representatives by a 415-14 vote on June 16, 2021.

In conclusion, it is an important day in Black history and in American history.  It is recognized in 45 states and in The District of Columbia.  Today, there are 47.9 million black persons living in the United States.  Furthermore, the Census Reporter writes that only 2% of DeKalb County, Tennessee’s population is Black.