Simply put, this is “the Black 4th of July“, because in 1776 we were still slaves, as many seem to forget.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Celebrated on June 19, the term is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, and is recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in 42 of the United States.
Juneteenth is one of the oldest celebrations commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States and has been an African-American tradition since the late 19th century.
There a lot of traditions that are observed at Juneteenth celebrations. For sure the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Also a usual staple is the singing of Lift Every Voice and Sing penned by James Weldon Johnson which has become known as “The African-American National Anthem”.
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.
And for your information and education and elucidation the
eight seven U.S. states that have not recognized Juneteenth through state legislative resolution or bill: Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland (On May 2014, the Maryland legislature approved official recognition of the holiday), Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah. (this paragraph updated 6/12/15)
Despite the state I’m currently residing in (AZ) not being up to snuff, there have been Juneteenth celebrations here in Tucson since the first commemoration 40 years ago, so WELP.
In addition to recognizing Juneteenth, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill in 2006 setting aside September 22 as Emancipation Day in Ohio because on September 22, 1863, the African American community in Gallipolis, Ohio, began what has become the longest, continuous celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation on the first anniversary of Lincoln’s preliminary proclamation.
How awesome is that?