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Today, June 19, is known as Juneteenth. You’ve probably heard a lot of different groups say they will acknowledge today as a holiday, but may not know the significance of Juneteenth to the black community.
In September of 1862, the Union had just claimed their first major military victory of the Civil War at the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg (depending on source). To build on the momentum gained from this victory, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that he had been sitting on for a couple of months because he had been waiting until a major Union victory. That statement was the Emancipation Proclamation which was to go into effect on Jan. 1, 1863. Because the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves held in areas of rebellion (Confederate controlled states), the Union would have to eventually win the Civil War in order to enforce it. Fast forward a couple of years later to April of 1865 at Appomattox Court House in central Virginia and Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant bringing an end to the Civil War with a victory for the Union.
A few days after the surrender, Abraham Lincoln is assassinated and about a month later in May of 1865, the final battle of the Civil War occurs along the Texas/Mexico border at a site called Palmetto Ranch which ended in a Confederate victory. While celebrating this victory, word finally arrived in south Texas of Lee’s surrender and the mood quickly changes in both camps.
About another month later on June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger makes landfall in Galveston, TX as commander of the District of Texas and reads the following statement as one of his first official acts, “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 therefore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
Word quickly spreads throughout Texas and the rest of the former Confederacy of the Emancipation Proclamation and process of Reconstruction and reintegration of the former Confederate states back into the Union began.
Juneteenth is the celebration of the day the Emancipation Proclamation was able to begin being enforced about 2.5 years after it went into effect and the day progress towards equality for black people in the United States was able to begin. It’s significance is because it’s the anniversary of the start of the race that BLM is continuing today and other groups in the future will continue until the finish line is reached of true equality in this country.