On this day, in 1865, the abolition of slavery in the former Confederate States of America, specifically Texas was announced. The day is now a holiday in the state and in almost all other states across the nation. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration to commemorate the end official end of slavery in America.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas, only to find out that the enslaved were free. This new came about 2 and a half years after Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation. In Texas, there were not enough Union soldiers present to enforce what President Lincoln said in his address. Confederate General, Robert Lee surrendered to Major General Granger and his Union army troops in April of 1865 because of their strong numbers, which confederates could not overcome.
It is a mystery as to why there is a 2+ year gap in revealing that slaves were free. A common story told is that a messenger was on his way to Texas, but was murdered along his journey. It is also told that the news of freedom was deliberately withheld from slaves to keep them working on plantations. Whichever ever the reason, we are glad they were freed. What is boils down to is that President Lincoln had little to no control over the states that rebelled, such as Texas.
Texas was the first state to declare June 19th as holiday in 1980. By 2008, half of American began to observe Juneteenth as a holiday. Today, Only Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota do not recognize the day as a holiday. The National Juneteenth Observance Foundation are seeking to gain Congressional designation, so that Juneteenth can become a federal holiday.
Traditions used to celebrate the holiday include reading the Emancipation Proclamation, singing negro spirituals such as Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Lift Every Voice and Sing, and reading popular works of literature from Black authors like Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. In Texas, locals celebrate by having cookouts, rodeos, street fairs, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, or Miss Juneteenth contests.