Juneteenth, June 19th, is a celebration of the end of slavery in our country. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, TX, were freed by Union troops. This happened two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and two months after the end of the Civil War. TwinStar will be closing our branches on June 20th to encourage our employees to observe and explore learning opportunities about Juneteenth.
A short history of Juneteenth
The Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order declaring that “all persons held as slaves” to be freed, was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. On January 31, 1865, the 13th Amendment legally abolished slavery in the United States. Less than three months later, on April 9, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox, Va. The Civil War was over. It took months for the news of the end of the Civil War to reach slaves on plantations in the deepest parts of the South due to slave owners intentionally keeping their slaves in the dark.
However, slave owners in Galveston, TX, deliberately withheld news of the end of slavery until June 19, 1865 when 2,000 Union troops arrived to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Since then, June 19th is celebrated as “Juneteenth” across the South and beyond.
Juneteenth is a national holiday
The first Juneteenth was celebrated in Texas in 1866, just a year after the emancipation of the state’s slaves. Families gathered to celebrate and some freed peoples who had since relocated would make a pilgrimage back to Galveston.
The celebrations continued to spread across the South, where communities gathered year after year to share a time of good food, historical reenactments, songs and more. It was only in the 1920s that Juneteenth was commemorated throughout the rest of the country. Juneteenth is now celebrated in many cities within the United States.
Juneteenth National Independence Day was signed into law by President Joe Biden on June 17th, 2021 and made into a U.S. federal holiday.
Juneteenth is a day to both acknowledge the horrors of slavery and its lingering effects. Plus, it is a time to reflect on the importance of racial equity and freedom in our country.
Learn more about Juneteenth at the Smithsonian:
Resources for the whole family:
Celebrate in Olympia:
Other ways to observe Juneteenth:
- Attend an event in your area
- Visit a historical site or museum
- Support local Black businesses
We also encourage you to reflect and contemplate on how we can do our part to eliminate racism and discrimination in our communities and beyond. Learn about Black history, support your local Black-owned businesses, and take the time to celebrate with your Black neighbors. This is the beginning of the many proactive steps we can all take to build a culture of togetherness.