June 19th marks the annual Juneteenth celebration. But not all Americans know what that means. (Image source: YouTube screencap)
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June 19th, known as Juneteenth, marks the annual observation to commemorate the end of slavery in America. It dates back to 1865, when news finally arrived in Texas that the slaves were free — almost three years following the Emancipation Proclamation.
In those days, of course, information traveled slowly; but this news traveled slower than usual, even for back then. Without access to the reports in the east, slaves in Texas continued to serve their masters following both the Emancipation Proclamation and the Union's Civil War victory on May 9, 1865.
Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with 2,000 troops in Galveston to impart the news on June 19th of that year, presenting an order granting the freedom of any remaining slaves in The Lone Star State.
Granger's orders were to implement General Order No. 3, which formally noted: "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."
Following the announcement, there weren't exactly instant results. Unless a government official visited a slaveholder's estate, many withheld the news from their slaves — some waiting until after the year's harvest, while others held on to the secret for several years.
Also known as Black Liberation Day, Juneteenth is celebrated in many American communities with parades and fanfare — and while it's one of the lesser-known holidays in the US, it's also one of the oldest.
President Trump recognized the holiday by issuing a statement which read: "As a nation, we vow to never forget the millions of African Americans who suffered the evils of slavery. Together, we honor the unbreakable spirit and countless contributions of generations of African Americans to the story of American greatness.
"This historic moment would not have been possible without the courage and sacrifice of the nearly 200,000 former enslaved and free African Americans who fought for liberty alongside more than 2 million Union servicemen. These brave individuals fought to defend the God-given rights of those unjustly held in bondage."
The statement ended with: "Today and every day, we recommit ourselves to defending the self-evident truth, boldly declared by our Founding Fathers, that all people are created equal."
A number of news sites, including CNN, published opinion pieces on Tuesday, drawing a correlation between slavery and the current separation of children from their parents in sorting out the handling of illegal immigration at the US southern border.
Others, like The Atlantic, celebrated today's holiday by pointing to voter ID laws as a modern-day remnant of slavery, saying that the memory of Juneteenth and what it represents is in "dire straits."
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