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7911 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

(216) 334-2900

What Is Juneteenth?

Posted June 19, 2023

On June 17th, 2021 President Joe Biden signed legislation into law recognizing Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday in the United States.

But what exactly is Juneteenth and why is it important for people to know about it?

It started on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation (EP) was issued by President Abraham Lincoln putting into place that all enslaved people in Confederate states, “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” (history.com)

That night, enslaved and free African Americans gathered in churches and private homes across the country waiting to hear that the EP had taken effect.

However, the EP didn’t instantly free all enslaved people.

“The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control.” According to history.com.

It was from this, that enslaved people in Texas would not be free until two years later.

On June 19, 1865, around 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to announce that more than 250,000 enslaved people in the state were free by executive decree, (a legal proclamation, usually issued by a head of state such as the president of a republic, or a monarch, according to certain procedures).

This day shifted into what we now know as “Juneteenth” by the newly freed people in Texas.

In December of that year, slavery in America was formally abolished with the 13thAmendment, and the following year, the state of Texas organized the first celebration.

People gathered to celebrate with music, barbecues, prayer services, and more to remember all they’ve been through to get to where they are now.

As African Americans migrated from Texas to other parts of the country, the Juneteenth traditions spread.

There are many things the public can do this year to participate in Juneteenth and learn more about the day.

Reading about slavery and visiting museums are great ways of learning more about black culture and what people had been through.

Supporting black-owned businesses, eating at black-owned restaurants, and donating to black-led organizations are also ways people can support and celebrate this day.

Juneteenth not only represents the day that slavery came to an end for all, but a day that reminds people to never lose their hope or faith during hard times.

Sources:

“The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth.” National Museum of African American

History and Culture, 1 June 2023, nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/historical-legacy-juneteenth#:~:text=Freedom%20finally%20came%20on%20June,newly%20freed%20people%20in%20Texas.

Taylor, Derrick Bryson. “Juneteenth: The History of a Holiday.” The New York

Times, 13 June 2020, www.nytimes.com/article/juneteenth-day-celebration.html.

“What Is Juneteenth?” History.Com, www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth.

Accessed 16 June 2023.

Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Part of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

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