Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is celebrated annually on June 19. Every year on this day, families throughout the U.S. gather to commemorate African-American freedom, as it was on this day in 1865 two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that the slaves in Texaswere finally liberated. This important day in American history is now marked throughout the country with parades, reunions, speeches, and enormous barbecues.
Juneteenth was first recognized by the government as an official celebration encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures in 1980. This was thanks to the efforts of Al Edwards, a 13-term African-American state representative from Texas, who led the way to making June 19 a state holiday in Texas. It remains an official holiday only in Texas, but is celebrated widely, and is observed in almost every state.
It remains unclear why exactly the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation took so long to reach Texas. Rumors tend to suggest that either the Texans were choosing to ignore the proclamation, and there was not enough law-enforcement present to do anything about it, or that the message had failed to reach Texas, which was fairly cut off from the events of the war. It took General Gordon Granger to land at Galveston and pronounce that the war was over and the slaves were free for the African-Americans to finally gain their freedom.
As soon as this announcement was made, the ex-slaves ran out into the street to joyously celebrate. Some people immediately headed north, searching for what they believed would be true freedom, others headed to neighboring states to find estranged family members, and still others remained in Galveston, celebrating their new-found freedom. They popped open bottles of strawberry red soda, threw away their ragged garments and put on the clothing of former masters, and feasted on barbecue in the Texan streets. Today, celebrations of June 19take place throughout America, with the focus staying on self-development and respect for all cultures.