What Is Juneteenth?

June 19, 2020
Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19th, 1900

Many historical moments are worth commemorating. June 19th is one of these dates because it marks the anniversary of a very important declaration in the history of the United States: the end of slavery. But didn’t slavery end when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863? Good question.

On June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger declared that slaves were finally free in Texas, which unbeknownst to him at the time, had already taken effect elsewhere because the Civil War had ended two months prior and the Emancipation Proclamation had passed through Congress earlier that year. So, why the delay? Communication tools back then weren’t as sophisticated as they are now and word about things like the end of slavery didn’t get to people immediately. So, while slavery was abolished way before Major General Gordon Granger’s announcement, Juneteenth, otherwise known as the “second Independence Day” is considered the official date that slavery was abolished throughout the Confederate states.

Interesting fact: Many dates were considered for when the official end of slavery should be commemorated. Some of these dates included January 1st or the day the Emancipation Proclamation was issued; January 31st or the day Congress passed the 13th Amendment; and September 22nd, the date that Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary version of his Emancipation Proclamation.