There is more than one Independence Day in the United States. The name of the celebration is Juneteenth ("June" plus "nineteenth") thus June 19. It is a date that celebrates the emancipation from slavery.

The Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863. It was an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln. It had little effect, however, in Texas because there not enough union troops there to enforce the order. It was not until 2.5 years later when the Civil War in April 1865 were the forces finally strong enough to overcome any resistance. By 1865 there were more than 250,000 enslaved people in Galveston and Houston, Texas. Because the country was in the midst of the war, those states that had seceded from the union did not adhere to the Proclamation and slaves in that state remained unfree.

On June 19, 1865 General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to announce "General Orders No. 3." This order informed the people of Texas that "in accordance with this proclamation from the Executive of the the United States, all slaves were free. Technically those people were free-but none of them were made aware of it and no one was in a rush to inform them. News traveled slowly in those days-no internet or texting. Despite the announcement by Granger, Texas slave owners were not too eager to "allow" the legally freed slaves to leave. Many of them were beaten, lynched or murdered. 

When former slaves tried to celebrate Juneteenth a year after freedom, segregation laws were expanding and there were not any public spaces or parks they were allowed to use. So, some of the former slaves pooled their resources together, collected $800, and purchased 10 acres of land which they called Emancipation Park in the Houston.

The Juneteenth celebration waned for several decades. The reason was not because people did not want to acknowledge and celebrate emancipation, but because it was difficult to celebrate when their lives were defined by oppression-Jim Crow Laws. Juneteenth began to be celebrated again widely after the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday in 1980. It is still not a federal holiday although many states recognize Juneteenth and celebrate on that day.

Happy Juneteenth everyone!

Bettie Julkes

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