Juneteenth should be celebrated across the United States, because it was an important milestone in history. A day that is otherwise referred to as Freedom Day, Independence Day, or Emancipation Day clearly has enough significance for a large group of people to be deemed an important holiday that should be acknowledged on the official level. The day commemorates the announcement of slavery abolition in Texas in the year of 1865. So far, the holiday has been mainly celebrated on the local level, but it is clear that the holiday should get more prominence and promotion. Why? To understand the reasoning one must return to the middle of the 19th century and look at the event to appreciate its meaning and lasting legacy.

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Abraham Lincoln issued Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. The proclamation would be effective several months later with the start of 1863. The proclamation freed all slaves on the territory of the separatist Confederate States. The Union territory was excluded. Many slaves attempted to flee to the Union territory where slaves were already freed and were even recruited by the army to serve on equal terms with white people. The border states, which stayed with the Union were told to introduce abolition as well to get compensation. The border states did not heed the directive from the president. Emancipation arrived there only after the war was over.

Texas was one of the border states that did not see any war action because it was isolated. The slaves there were not affected by the proclamation and had to flee northward just like those within the Confederacy to gain freedom (Gilbert 2013). Moreover, Texas saw a considerable influx of aristocracy that fled from the regions affected by warfare. The planters naturally came with all slave property they could take with them. By the end of the Civil War there were approximately 250000 slaves in the state (Gates 2013). The holiday is celebrated on June 19th, the day when general Gordon Granger landed at Galveston and informed the local powers that the slavery is no more.

The delay of two and a half year does not have a clear cut explanation. There are several versions out there. One option is that the messenger sent to the state to deliver the news of the President’s decision was killed while on the way. Another hypothesis is that the Union army waited for the planters to acquire benefits of the last cotton harvest before going in and finishing off their businesses once and for all. It is hardly probable that any of the ideas above are true. It is just that Texas had always been slightly separate after its uprising against Mexico. It had always been a semi-separate entity by the Civil War time. Hence, President’s authority might have been in question (History of Juneteenth).

The reaction were mixed. Some were in disbelief, others elated. The news meant too much change that happened instantly. Naturally, those who were freed by the news were remarkably happy. Even having nowhere to go, leaving the plantation was the first real possibility for freedom. Celebration ensued as families could be reunited. For many, the event became in retrospective the token of the final undeniable victory of pro-abolition forces. The holiday became the day when people prayed, commemorated the start of the free life and reassured each other in a brighter future.

The holiday should be preserved and popularized to turn the attention of younger generations towards the issues of slavery and problems it caused in the society. Some remnants of slavery such as racial cover discrimination are still something that the country has to fight and yet to defeat. Juneteenth is the oldest holiday that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States.

Works Cited

  • Gates Jr., Henry Louis. 2013. “What is Juneteenth?” The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. PBS. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/)

  • Gilbert, Cruz. 2013. “A Brief History of Juneteenth” in Time Magazine. (http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1815936,00.html)

  • History of Juneteenth. Juneteenth Online. (http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm)