On June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and enslaved African Americans were now free. Lincoln’s proclamation initially had little effect on the Texans because there was a limited number of Union forces in the South at the time. With the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and increased Union forces with the arrival of General Granger, the Union was finally strong enough to enforce the proclamation.
This day became known as Juneteenth and is celebrated nationally in commemoration of the official ending of slavery in the United States. The holiday, which name is derived from the combination of the words June and Nineteenth, is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day and Black Independence Day. Celebrations, especially in the South, typically include picnics, rodeos, and religious church ceremonies. Juneteenth ceremonies usually emphasize an educational and historical perspective to inform and remind young black children of the historical significance of the day.
As Juneteenth becomes more widely acknowledged, discussions have focused on recognizing the day as a national holiday to celebrate and acknowledge an important point of reflection in American history.