What Is ‘Juneteenth’ And Where Can You Celebrate It This Year?

06.18.18 1 year ago

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Ask even your most detailed of history buffs what “Juneteenth” is and they will probably look at you like you have hardtack on your face. The name is funny-sounding enough, and the actual day is pretty vague to a lot of people — even though it’s very significant in American history, and especially African-American history.

After President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House at the end of the Civil War there was a lag time before the good news spread southward (especially since defeated confederates were in no hurry to give up the free labor they’d built their riches on). As huge of an impact as the War made on our nation, the fighting was only limited to certain regions, and because no one was Googling or live-streaming anything back then, spreading the word took a while (again, a lot of people were invested in slowing it down).

Thus, while the Emancipation Proclamation officially freed the slaves January 1, 1863, slaves in bondage in the South didn’t get the good news until June 19, 1865 (hence the portmanteau “Juneteenth”) when Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his soldiers landed in Galveston, TX to spread the word that slavery had officially ended in America. That means that for two whole years and some change, Southern slaves were still in bondage only in name — because legally, they were free.

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