A Brief History Of Juneteenth
Juneteenth is an important historical holiday. So, it seems fitting to go over a brief history of Juneteenth. “Freedom’s Eve,” which is the eve of January 1, 1863, the first Watch Night services happened. On this night, African American families gathered in churches and private residences all over the U.S. patiently awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. At 12 AM, prayers were answered as all enslaved people in Confederate States were legally given their freedoms. Union soldiers began to march on plantations and through cities in the south reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and distributing the news of the freedom in Confederate States. Only through the Thirteenth Amendment did emancipation end slavery in the United States.
However, not every enslaved person in Confederate states would be freed immediately. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under control of the Confederacy. Consequently, enslaved people would not be free in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas until much later. Freedom finally shone its face June 19, 1865, when about 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army broadcasted that the more than 250,000 enslaved peoples in the state of Texas, were free by executive verdict. It is on this day that Juneteenth was born through the newly freed people of Texas.
The post-emancipation period which is labeled as the Reconstruction bookmarked a time of great hope, doubt, and fight for the nation as a whole. Previously enslaved people immediately sought to reunite families, build schools, run for office, push essential legislation, and even sue slave owners for compensation. Given the 200+ years of enslavement, such changes were nothing short of remarkable. Not even a generation out of slavery, African Americans were encouraged and free to transform their lives and their country.
Juneteenth earmarks The United States’ second Independence Day. While it has long been celebrated in the African American community, this colossal event remains widely unknown to many Americans. The historic heritage of Juneteenth shows the value of never giving up hope in difficult times. Many institutions now keep the legacy and spirit of the significance of Juneteenth alive. The Hannibal Square Heritage Center is a local commodity in this aspect, which we are lucky to have. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is another well-known museum where history and stories of this prolific day live on.
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