Emancipation Proclamation. Lithograph by L. Lipman, Milwaukee, Wisc., Feb. 26, 1864. Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.
Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, on June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, with the news that the War was over and slavery was abolished. According to Juneteenth.com, there are several guesses as to why the two year delay. Some speculate, that the messenger carrying the notice from the Federal government was murdered. Another theory assumes, that the information was withheld by slave owners hoping to continue to have labor for their cotton harvests.
Pres. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the people of Texas, since there were few Union troops around at the time to enforce it. But, with the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee in April 1865 and the arrival of Gen. Gordon Granger’s regiment in Galveston, troops were finally strong enough to enforce the executive order. Newly freed men rejoiced, originating the annual “Juneteenth” celebration, which commemorates the freeing of the slaves in Texas.
Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated each year since 1865, it wasn’t until June 3, 1979, that Texas became the first state to proclaim Juneteenth an official state holiday.
Billy McCrea, a former slave who remembered the Union troops coming into Texas in 1865 and being told that he was free. Photo by Ruby Terrill Lomax, September 30, 1940.
Currently only Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana are the only states that do not celebrate Juneteenth.
For information on African American genealogy from the Library of Congress, please click here.
The Freedmen’s Bureau Project has compiled nearly 1.8 million records of men, women and children, searchable online. To use this database to find your African American ancestry, please click here.
For the “resolution recognizing the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day and expressing the sense of the Senate that history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future” by the 111th US Congress, please click here.
For the African American Biographical Database, collecting information on African Americans from 1790 – 1950, please click here.
Juneteenth! with Janaesound, Rodney Mashia, B. Aull, Abdul Ali
Fri, June 19, 2020, State Theatre Facebook Doors: 8:00pm – Show: 8:00pm – all ages
The third and final installment in Maine Inside Out’s outdoor June performance series is a recognition and celebration of Juneteenth in Portland’s Congress Square Park. Hosted by the MIO Portland group, the event will feature the final performance of MIO’s original play “Unspoken Truth” along with original artwork created in partnership with the Maine Center for Electronic Music. Please come join us for the final performance of this powerful, bold play.