Friday, June 17, 2011


Freedom came more than two years late for slaves in Texas.
Though President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation became official on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free," that announcement was not made in Texas until 1865.
On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and officially declared that the institution of slavery was dead, according to the Texas State Historical Association .
To commemorate that freedom, the Juneteenth holiday is celebrated on June 19 as the African-American Emancipation Day.
"Today Juneteenth commemorates African-American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement," according to a website dedicated to the holiday.
"It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future."
Texas is considered the first state to celebrate Juneteenth, where it has been an official state holiday since 1980. Today 39 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth.
"Our nation is stronger because of the generations of struggles for equal rights and social justice, and our culture is richer because of the contributions of African-Americans throughout our history. This is why Juneteenth, while rooted in the history of a people, can be celebrated by all Americans," said President Barack Obama in a Juneteenth proclamation .
"Many people use the occasion to gather with family and friends as well as church members to commemorate a past which involved many struggles to obtain basic human and political rights. Others come together to proclaim a future which promises redemption and success," Alphine Jefferson, professor of history and black studies at Randolph-Macon College.

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