Tuesday Trivia: What is Juneteenth?

J. H. Osborne • Jun 18, 2019 at 3:15 PM

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

Last year, President Donald Trump issued a presidential message sending “our best wishes to those celebrating Juneteenth” from himself and wife Melania

It read:

• “On this day in 1865, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to declare the end of the Civil War and issue a long-awaited order freeing the remaining slaves in Texas. Although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier, the freedom of most slaves depended on the advancement of the Union Army, which brought with it enforcement of the Proclamation. In Texas, General Granger’s order was a major step in our Nation’s effort to abolish slavery forever.”

• “This historic moment would not have been possible without the courage and sacrifice of the nearly 200,000 former enslaved and free African Americans who fought for liberty alongside more than 2 million Union servicemen. These brave individuals fought to defend the God-given rights of those unjustly held in bondage.”

• “As a Nation, we vow to never forget the millions of African Americans who suffered the evils of slavery. Together, we honor the unbreakable spirit and countless contributions of generations of African Americans to the story of American greatness. Today and every day, we recommit ourselves to defending the self-evident truth, boldly declared by our Founding Fathers, that all people are created equal.”

According to a similar message from President George W. Bush, in 2002:

• “The celebration of Juneteenth has its roots in Texas, but the holiday is now observed in many parts of the country with picnics, family gatherings, parades, and community programs. The day is a fitting time to celebrate freedom from slavery and for all Americans to reflect on the rich contributions of African Americans to our Nation.”

• “As we celebrate Juneteenth on June 19, I encourage all Americans to reaffirm their commitment to achieving equal justice and opportunity for all citizens. Laura joins me in sending best wishes on this special occasion.”

The document read by Granger on June 19, 1865, was “General Order Number 3,” which stated “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them became that between employer and free laborer.”

On June 19, 2015, the White House, under the administration of President Barrack Obama, published a blog about Juneteenth, including:

• “The announcement by General Granger was met with resistance from plantation owners and hesitation from newly freed African Americans unsure of their next move. The Freedmen’s Bureau took the lead in claiming June 19 as a day for African Americans across the nation to celebrate freedom from bondage and inspire continued efforts in the struggle for equal rights in the post-Civil War era.”

“... Juneteenth remains an unofficial holiday at the national level. Many states, including Texas, have recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday, but its popularity and reach have fluctuated over the years. Today, Juneteenth has since seen a resurgence in popularity as the African American community, and all Americans have recognized the day as a celebration of freedom and achievement in our quest for a more perfect union.”

Sources: The National Archives; whitehouse.gov.