The Importance of Juneteenth

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Juneteenth

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The American Civil War ended in 1865. President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in the Southern states back in 1863, but it took the end of the war to turn the words into law.

The end of slavery in America is still celebrated today, in the form of the Juneteenth celebration. The name comes from the melding of June and Nineteenth, or June 19th. This was the day that slavery ended in Galveston, Texas, in 1865. General Order Number 3 from General Gordon Granger said, in part:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."

Juneteenth flag

Beginning in 1866, people across the states that had allowed slavery celebrated its end on the 19th of June. Celebrations included feasts and pageants, along with prayers and other expressions of forgiveness. Others took the opportunity to speak out in favor of African-Americans' newly acquired equal protection by the Fourteenth Amendment and an equal right to vote by the Fifteenth Amendment.

In subsequent years, the places in which Juneteenth was celebrated included Mexico and other countries, as people who escaped slavery in one way or another celebrated in whatever country that they lived. At such gatherings on that day, these people would tell the stories of the horrors that they witnessed, urging people to remember such stories so that they could ensure that such horrors not be repeated.

Through the years, June 19 and its associated remembrances have gone by other names: Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, among others. Juneteenth is still the most popular name for the day.

Texas, where Juneteenth began, made the day a state holiday in 1980. Other states followed. And in 2021, Congress declared June 19 a national holiday.

And from the freed slaves of Galveston came the Juneteenth celebration. It is a joyous occasion, punctuated by great feasts and great gatherings of people. Celebrations take place all over the world.

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White