What is Juneteenth!
It is the name for a holiday celebrating June 19, 1865, the day when Union soldiers arrived in Texas and spread the word that President Lincoln had delivered his Emancipation Proclamation. News traveled so slowly in those days that Texas did not hear of Lincoln’s Proclamation, which he gave on January 1, 1863, until more than two years after it was issued!
The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Thus, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.
Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated each year since 1865, it wasn’t until June 3, 1979, that Texas became the first state to proclaim Emancipation Day (Juneteenth) an official state holiday. But it is much more than a holiday. Juneteenth has become a day for African Americans to celebrate their freedom, culture, and achievements. It is a day for all Americans to celebrate African American history and rejoice in their freedom.