June + nineteenth => Juneteenth
A holiday to celebrate the end of slavery and the freeing of slaves. Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day

Juneteenth (19th of June, 1865) is one of the most important days celebrated by the African American community in the United States of America. For it was on this day, 19th of June in the year 1865 that a majority of slaves were informed that they were free. However, they were informed two years after slavery was made illegal in the US.

Slavery is the treatment of humans as private property of other humans and forcing them to work against their will. The early United States of America was built on the backs of slaves shipped from Africa. The cotton industry of the southern states benefited the most from slavery because it meant that landowners could get labor for little or no money.

The first recorded African slave in the US was in 1526 and it took 330 years for slavery to be abolished in the country.

In the presidential election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln supported banning slavery. After he won, the southern states rose up in protest and voted to leave the United States. Their economies were based on slavery and nearly half of their population were slaves. To remove slavery would radically change these states. The slave-owners were terrified that their positions of power would weaken. They left the United States and the country was torn apart leading to the Civil War (1861 to 1865). The northern states were now at war against their southern brothers.

Map of United States of America: Areas covered by the Emancipation Proclamation are in red. Slave-holding areas not covered are in blue.
Map of United States of America: Areas covered by the Emancipation Proclamation are in red. Slave-holding areas not covered are in blue.

Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln was fighting to create one America. However, he could not decide everything for the states. The central government had the right to decide some things, the rest were decided by the states. At the time, slavery was a state issue. Lincoln had no legal footing to abolish slavery. He found an interesting workaround. The southern states were at war against the northern states. A president has broad powers during war time. Abolishing slavery would not only cripple the economy of the southern states but it would also allow Lincoln to turn the free slaves into a standing army in the south. This was the real motivation behind the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln was not fighting against slavery because he thought it was wrong. His home states in the north still had slavery. He fought against slavery to win the Civil War. Regardless, the Proclamation applied to 3.5 million out of 4 million slaves in the country.

Abraham Lincoln issued a declaration called the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It looked to end slavery once and for all. But the slaves were never told this. It took nearly two and a half years for Lincoln to win the Civil War and send his generals to the southern states to inform the slaves that they were free.

The northern states were called the ‘Union’ and the states in rebellion were called the ‘Confederates’. After the Emancipation Proclamation, many Confederate states refused to obey it. As far as they were concerned the Union had no authority over them. Furthermore, Lincoln could not force them to listen because there were very few Union troops in the Confederate states. This was particularly true for Texas. It had the lowest Union presence and many slave owners fled to Texas with their slaves for security. This is why what happened there was so important.

Juneteenth (19th of June, 1865)

On the 19th of June, 1865, Union leader General Gordon Granger took control of the last revolting state, Texas. The state had nearly a quarter of a million slaves and the general informed them that they were free. This is why we celebrate Juneteenth on the 19th of June. It is important to remember that this was only for the Confederate states at war. The slaves in the Union states were freed several months later when the government passed the Thirteenth Amendment and universally ended slavery.

Over the next 30 years, Juneteenth was widely celebrated. The celebrations were used to educate the former slaves on voting rights, wages, and various other important topics. The celebrations reduced in the 19th century because tough laws made it hard for former slaves to earn money. The older generations were busy working and the younger generations were busy at school. Many of the youth did not feel the same connection to the holiday since they only had stories to understand its importance. Texas became the only state to recognize Juneteenth as a statewide holiday. This helped in reviving the holiday. It is celebrated with sports, a barbecue meal, the singing of songs, readings of African American authors, and the drinking of strawberry soda.

Today, Juneteenth has particular relevance. It is a symbol of how justice is always delayed for African Americans. The idea behind the Confederacy, states fighting for their rights to own slaves is not in the dustbin of history. There are still too many who believe in the idea of Confederacy without understanding what it stood for. African Americans still face serious oppression and violence by the state. Juneteenth is a reminder of the battle for the freedom and equality of the African American community, and the work that still lies ahead.

905 words | 9 minutes
Readability: Grade 9 (14-15 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: features
Tags: #united states, #african americans, #abraham lincoln, #american civil war, #gordon granger, #slavery, #texas

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