Two and a half years after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Union army general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19th, 1865, with news that the enslaved were now free.
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” stated General Order Number 3. “This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
Former slaves rejoiced, and June 19th became an annual celebration in Texas and in neighboring states where former slaves had migrated. Toward the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, as textbooks left out mention of Juneteenth, as Jim Crow laws began to further disenfranchise African Americans, as the Great Depression took hold, Juneteenth celebrations declined. Juneteenth found a resurgence during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and in 1980 Texas declared Juneteenth an official state holiday. Currently, 43 states and the District of Columbia mark Juneteenth with a holiday or observance. If you live in Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota or Utah, contact your lawmakers and ask them to establish an official state holiday. Contact the White House and ask President Obama to issue a presidential Juneteenth proclamation. Learn more about Juneteenth and the Juneteenth movement at nationaljuneteenth.com and juneteenth.com, and join or host a local Juneteenth celebration.
The work of racial justice is ongoing. United Methodist Women has, is and will continue this work until we live in a world in which all have the equal opportunity to thrive. For resources, visit unitedmethodistwomen.org/racial-justice.
From June 2015 ACT page.
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