A brief history of Juneteenth
June 19, 2023
On June 19, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger informed a group of previously enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas of their newly afforded citizenship and freedom. This address came approximately two months after Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union forces in Appomattox, Virginia — and well over two years after Abraham Lincoln’s signature of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The National Museum of African American History & Culture at the Smithsonian Institute describes Juneteenth as “our country’s second independence day,” highlighting the fact that the independence of the United States excluded enslaved individuals in its guarantees of certain rights to its citizens.
Although Juneteenth marked the inclusion of Black people as citizens of the United States, there remained a long and arduous path toward equity for all.
“The post-emancipation period known as Reconstruction marked an era of great hope, uncertainty, and struggle for the nation as a whole,” reads the Smithsonian article regarding the holiday. “Formerly enslaved people immediately sought to reunify families, establish schools, run for political office, push radical legislation and even sue slaveholders for compensation.”
158 years following the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865, White said that community members still fight for justice every day.
“We are also reminded that freedom is something that we should never take for granted,” White said in his address at the Juneteenth flag raising on Friday. “We all must strive to break down barriers that impede the progress of equality. We must remember our past so that we do not repeat it and we can build a better future for ourselves and future generations.”