National Observance: Juneteenth

U.S. REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE of Texas talks about the importance of Juneteenth in American history. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.SATURDAY, JUNE 19: Read African-American writers, enjoy traditional Southern cooking and sing aloud today as Americans marks Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of slavery’s end in America. (Get the scoop at

The holiday doesn’t mark the Emancipation Proclamation itself; instead, this holiday recalls the date, more than two years later, when slaves in Texas were finally freed and Confederates were forced to recognize the Proclamation. On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops reached Galveston, Texas, to enforce emancipation; on June 19, Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No.3.”

Since last year, the observance has grown. Now, 39 states and the District of Columbia observe Juneteenth as a state holiday. While many across the nation barbecue, hold small street fairs and gather with family, the biggest celebrations are still found in Texas. Within a few years of General Order No.3, records show that former slaves were purchasing land in Texas to accommodate crowds at growing Juneteenth celebrations. (Emancipation parks are still thriving in the state today. Find out more at Wikipedia.) Perhaps most importantly, Americans are encouraged to become educated on African-American history today.

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