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Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom.

Updated on June 9, 2018
Texas led the way in recognizing Juneteenth as a  holiday.
Texas led the way in recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday. | Source

Juneteenth- 150 Years Young

Juneteenth honors the official end of slavery in the United States of America (U.S.A.) and its territories. Juneteenth is the oldest known observance that celebrates this historical event. Today, Juneteenth is designated as a commemorative observance holiday or legal holiday in the District of Columbia and 43 of the nation’s 50 states. Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah are the remaining states that do not observe Juneteenth as a holiday.

Juneteenth was first awarded holiday status by the state of Texas effective the 1980 calendar year. However, pockets of people within the nation’s African-American community have acknowledged Juneteenth since its inception in 1865. Currently, participants across the globe partake in the liberation gala. The arrival of Juneteenth in 2015 marked its 150th anniversary.

Galveston Sunset

Galveston,Texas is the original site of what is affectionately called juneteenth.  The town has celebrated it since 1865.
Galveston,Texas is the original site of what is affectionately called juneteenth. The town has celebrated it since 1865. | Source

June & 19- Juneteenth

The Emancipation Proclamation lay at the heart of all things Juneteenth. The hallowed directive was already a late arrival upon the American scene. The President, Abraham Lincoln, issued the Emancipation Proclamation via an executive order in September 1862 and signed it thus making it effective on January, 1 1863. Emancipation Proclamation The actual emancipation of slaves in Texas took even longer. The lofty edict could not be enforced in Texas until nearly three years after it was written.

The Union Army’s conquest of Texas towards the end of America’s Civil War unleashed the rein of slavery there. General Gordon Granger announced General Order #3 in the island hamlet of Galveston, Texas on that fateful day. The military order liberated slaves as authorized by the dictates enumerated in the Emancipation Proclamation. The date associated with the Union’s victorious advance is June 19, 1865.The previously bound people welcomed the reprieve so much that they invented a new word. They merged the words June and nineteenth with an ingenious bit of indigenous vernacular to form the word juneteenth.,

" Shaw at Fort Wagner

 The mural is in honor of Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, made up of freed slaves who fought during the Civil War.
The mural is in honor of Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, made up of freed slaves who fought during the Civil War. | Source

The Road to Emancipation

A bridge of nearly 250 years spanned the time from slavery’s arrival on the North American continent and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery arrived in North America during the early 17th century via introduction to the Jamestown, VA settlement in the year 1619. Slavery continued to persist within the region known as the 13 original colonies that preceded America’s independence. It remained following the nation’s birth even as founders expressed lofty rhetoric about freedom and equality.

Abolitionist many of whom inspired by the gospel message followed the tenants of their faith and waged war against the ingrained institution from its onset. Slavery continued to provoke political and economic conflict within the country all the way up to its well-deserved demise. America of the 19th century was dominated by slavery’s insidious influence upon life in both the North and South. A series of pitched battles came about as the result of its impact on the American conscious. The sustained discord would eventually erupt into the Civil War. And, the Civil War would inevitably lead to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Key 19th Century Events that led to the Civil War

1808 The Slave Trade is Made Illegal

The Slave Trade Act of 1807 takes effect on the first day of the year. This law prohibited further importation of slaves to the United States and its territories.

Map Missouri Compromise


1820 The Missouri Compromise

Missouri’s calendar year 1819 request for statehood as a slave state upset anti-slavery factions within Congress and the country as a whole. However, a compromise was reached. (thus the name) Missouri was allowed to enter as a slave state while Maine was created and made into a free state. It also included an imaginary latitude border line dividing north and south territories upon which the north would be free and the south slave holding.

1834 The Farren Anti-Abolition Riots

A spate of riots erupted at multiple locations in New York City over the course of four days. The devastation that appeared to be caused by random mob action took on a very organized approach. Abolitionist, such as evangelist abolitionist Lewis Tappan and English actor George Farren, and their property was targeted for destruction. Likewise, African-Americans and their homes were destroyed. Philadelphia and Cincinnati among other places would later host similar anti-abolition riots and attacks upon African-Americans by working class whites who feared the potential job competition of an increased free black population. The Farren riots foreshadowed the eerily similar “ draft riots” held in New York City over the course of five days in 1863.

1846-1848 The Mexican-American War

The United States, led by President James K. Polk, instigated a dispute with Mexico that led to war. Mexico outlawed slavery in 1824 after winning independence from Spain. The Mexican government and the then slave holding Republic of Texas engaged in ongoing disputes with the U.S. taking Texas side. Texas which was incorporated into statehood in 1845 was annexed to the United States. Furthermore, territory in what is currently the western part of the country was added as a conditions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war.

1850 The Compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850 displayed democracy at its best. Congress managed to throw a bone to the hounds on both sides of the debate. They did this with five separate pieces of legislation related to the slavery issue with the following results:

- Texas lost their claim to the New Mexico territory but kept the Texas Panhandle and received funds.

- California was admitted as a free state

- The citizens of the Utah and New Mexico territories were allowed popular sovereignty. They could vote their choice as to whether to have slavery.

- The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was amended to give it more teeth. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 now required cooperation of federal officials of all states, free states included, with help in returning escaped slaves. (/wiki/Compromise_of_1850) As a result, an official in free state Illinois would be required to help in the efforts to get a slave who escaped from slave state Missouri or else face severe consequences. (/wiki/Compromise_of_1850)

- The slave trade was abolished in the nation’s capital but slavery itself remained.

1854 The Kansa-Nebraska Act

Kansas would eventually join the United States in 1861 after several southern states seceded from the Union. Nebraska would not join the U.S.A. until after the Civil War. The law allowed both states popular sovereignty with regard to slavery and erased the imaginary border line put in place by the Missouri Compromise.

Dred Scott was a Missouri slave who sued for his freedom after he and his family lived in free states along with his owner. The Supreme Court denied his request.
Dred Scott was a Missouri slave who sued for his freedom after he and his family lived in free states along with his owner. The Supreme Court denied his request. | Source

1857 The Dred Scott Decision

The Scott decision, (Scott v Sanford 60 U.S. 393) may well be the most notorious case in U.S. Supreme Court history. It engaged in far reaching conclusions about the Constitution that effectively declared an entire population of people unfit for citizenship. The decision basically called into question the humanity of the people involved.

The Court determined that with regard to black people descendants of Africans brought to the U.S. for slavery “…we think they are not, and they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word citizens in the constitution…” “ and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held power and the Government might choose to grant them.” 60 U.S. 393, 404-405 located on

As such, this would apply even to free black people regardless of what they might have contributed to the nation. John Brown and his adventures at Harpers Ferry would follow two years later.

The Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation granted legal freedom to slaves located in Confederate regions. It provided the heretofore enslaved black populace the right to ownership by God and themselves only, free of interference from other men. Furthermore, it promised cooperation and protection from the U.S. military forces, both ground and sea, in maintaining that freedom. As such, U.S. law would no longer abide or promote keeping those named in slavery. Emancipation Proclamation

Still, the Emancipation Proclamation had its limits. One such hindrance was its scope. The freedom granted to slaves was limited to those in Confederate allied areas. It did not apply to slaves in the so called border states. Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri were slave states that were not part of the Confederacy. The freedom mandate also failed to reach sections of Louisiana and Virginia who didn’t join their state in leaving the Union. Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation could be enforced only in those places with a substantial Union military presence. It is one thing to declare a law but it’s another to defend the enforcement of the law. As a result, this did not put an immediate end to all slavery practices within the country.

Yet, words are power, for that which is written and that which is spoken matter. A noted philosopher wrote in a widely acclaimed book that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Holy Bible Proverbs 18:21) The Emancipation Proclamation’s speech changed the Civil War from a regional based power play derived from cultural, political and economic differences into a sharply defined moral cause that would unite the Union. Its words laid the foundation for the enslaved populace to fully participate in the fight for their own liberation. The statement was made that the slavery past was finished and a free future would emerge on the horizon. The 13th Amendment which abolished slavery arrived shortly thereafter.

Statue of former state representative Al Edwards holding up copy of Texas Juneteenth law.

Al Edwards served Houston's 146th District in the Texas House of Representatives for over 30 years.
Al Edwards served Houston's 146th District in the Texas House of Representatives for over 30 years. | Source

June Holiday

Juneteenth’s official name in Texas is “Emancipation Day in Texas.” The aptly named day is a state holiday in Texas whereby public offices may be closed for business. It shares this distinction with a select few other holidays, one of which ironically is Confederate Heroes Day. Emancipation celebration as such is set aside on the Texan calendar.

The chain of events that would make Juneteenth official accelerated in 1979. Al Edwards, a Democrat from Houston sponsored H.B. 1016, a proposal to add Juneteenth to Texas holiday calendar. William “Bill” Clements, the Republican Governor at the time, signed the measure which became effective in 1980.

Texas observes Juneteenth on the actual date, June 19th, that the emancipating events occurred. However, most states including Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, three states that border Texas, reserve the third Saturday in June for their observances. Juneteenth’s official name also varies across state lines. Arkansas for instance refers to this as “Juneteenth Independence Day.” Oklahoma , on the other hand calls it “Juneteenth National Freedom Day.”

Participants in a  2011 Juneteenth parade in Milwaukee
Participants in a 2011 Juneteenth parade in Milwaukee | Source

The end of slavery is a serious subject. To that end, Juneteenth commemorations often focus on African-Americans’ contributions, the awful injustices of the slavery past and other historical facts. However, this is a summer time American holiday. And, such holidays are not complete without the requisite parades, parties, picnics and barbeque. The distinct party favor affiliated with Juneteenth is red soda pop or strawberry soda. Red, is after all one of the three colors on the Juneteenth, Texas and American flags. (each flag is red, white and blue)

The end of bondage and beginning of freedom is something worth celebrating. Juneteenth is the perfect occasion to do so.


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    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      18 months ago from The Great Midwest

      I wasn't aware of Freedom Day in South Africa. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      18 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Yes a well written post on this topic. Freedom Day on 27 April is an annual celebration of South Africa's first non-racial democratic elections of 1994 Freedom Day recognises and celebrates the strides that have been made since 1994, and acknowledges that South Africa is a far better society than it was under apartheid.

    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      19 months ago from The Great Midwest

      Thank you Bodylevive. I imagine that southern locations such as in Alabama emphasize the holiday more than those such as my Midwestern location.

    • bodylevive profile image


      19 months ago from Alabama, USA

      I love your research and writing! I live in Alabama and Juneteenth is celebrated with crafts, foods, music and much more here.

    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      21 months ago from The Great Midwest

      Nadine May, I recently revisited Juneteenth's birth place(albeit briefly) this past July. While there, I talked to family from Buffalo New York who said that they have one of the biggest longest running celebration of the holiday. I've always enjoyed learning history.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      21 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      An interesting read from someone from South Africa who never knew about Texas having an Emancipation Day and all the other dates is history you wrote about. It's always a pleasure to learn these facts from foreign countries.

    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      3 years ago from The Great Midwest

      Thank you for reading and your kind comment. The only occasions that I had to visit Galveston, TX were during September. Too bad, because they really do Juneteenth big.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      Definitely a day that needs to be celebrated everywhere, by all people. I learned a lot from this well written hub.

    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      3 years ago from The Great Midwest

      Ms Dora, It's too bad that during my initial forays into Galveston, Tx, I was unaware of its ties to juneteenth. I went there for the beaches. Next time there, I will check out some history.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for the history and interesting facts on Juneteenth. It's been a while since I heard or read the word. Thanks for highlighting its importance to all of us. Voted Up!

    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      3 years ago from The Great Midwest

      Glad to hear from you. Its never too late to celebrate juneteenth. In fact, when we have our family reunion in July of next year, we'll incorporate some juneteenth observance. A relative got the ideal to do this after viewing this hub.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      3 years ago

      You certainly have posted a lot of interesting facts on this topic. June is past but next year this will help to make it a great month of celebrations.

    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      3 years ago from The Great Midwest

      Yes, lawrence01, many lifetimes happened between the arrival of slavery in North America and juneteenth, but the believers helped lead the way to freedom. Thanks for reading.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I knew about the struggle to end the slave trade and the Royal Navy being given the right of siezure for any ship of any flag (nation) in 1809 but didn't know the USA had already banned the trade the year before!

      Awesome hub and thank you for explaining the steps to Lincoln's courageous move to emancipate the African American.


    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      3 years ago from The Great Midwest

      Thanks for reading and have a jolly juneteenth.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 

      3 years ago from Shimla, India

      Well put and well researched :)

    • justthemessenger profile imageAUTHOR

      James C Moore 

      3 years ago from The Great Midwest

      Thank you. The ideal came to me a couple of weekends ago when I was seeking Juneteenth celebrations to party at. I might still end up somewhere enjoying a Juneteenth fest.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      A well written and well researched hub on a topic so relevant today. Nice job! Voted up and more.


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