What is Juneteenth?

Photo of Juneteenth Statute, Galveston Island,
Texas, USA, commemorates the reading of the
Emancipation Proclamation at Ashton Villa, June 19, 1865

Juneteenth is short for June 19th. It is celebrated as part of African American history, mostly in Texas and the South, to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States. It dates back to 1865 when soldiers for the federal Union, led by Major General Gordon Granger, made it to Ashton Villa near Gavleston, Texas with news that the Union won the war and human slavery was illegal. This was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by the U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

The enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas was not made a reality until 1865, with General Granger's arrival with his Union regiment and the surrender of General Lee. This two and a half years delay in receiving the news of federal emancipation has generated many stories of how it was delivered to Texas.

Some say that the Union troops waited for Texas slaveholders to reap the last cotton harvests. Others say that the messenger was murdered on his way to deliver the news of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Some commentators report that President Lincoln just did not have full authority over the region. In either case, Africans in Texas were freed TWO AND A HALF YEARS after the official historical date for independence of Africans in the United States.

The Juneteenth Statute above is a 9 foot tall bronze statue that was erected in 2005 on the grounds of Ashton Villa in Texas to commemorate an 1979 Texas legislative declaration that made June 19th a state holiday to memorialize the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at Ashton Villa on June 19, 1865.

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