Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day in the United States, commemorates the freedom of around 250,000 enslaved persons in Texas in 1865. In truth, slavery was abolished in 1863 by an official decree known as the Emancipation Proclamation, which called for the immediate emancipation of slaves across the country.
Unfortunately, many enslaved individuals, particularly in the South, remained enslaved. The country was in the midst of a Civil War, and states such as Texas that had seceded from the Union refused to follow the Proclamation.
Here are ten other facts you should know about Juneteenth:
1. Why it is called Juneteenth
Juneteenth is a combination of the month and date of the celebration, June 19. Ralph Ellison’s novel Juneteenth is likewise titled Juneteenth.
2. Part of General Order No. 3 encouraged newly freed people to stay on plantations with their former owners and work for wages
Slavery lasted in Texas after the Emancipation Proclamation until two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger and his forces arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed inhabitants that slavery had been abolished.Granger read General Order Number 3 aloud in public, announcing the abolition of slavery. General Order No. 3, on the other hand, ordered former slaves to remain with their former masters and work for wages. General Order Number 3 was read aloud by General Granger and stated:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
3. The period after Juneteenth is known as the “scatter”
Following Granger’s declaration, many enslaved men and women fled the state in pursuit of loved ones and family members, or to begin new lives elsewhere.
4. Not all slaves were freed right after Granger’s announcement
After Granger’s pronouncement of freedom, not every slave in Texas was freed. Some slaves continued to work during the harvest season because their owners withheld information about their release from them in order to profit from their labor. Former slaves who attempted to flee their former owners were assaulted or lynched in some locations.
5. There is a Juneteenth Flag of Freedom
The flag, which is half red and half blue with a star in the center, was designed in 1997 by activist Ben Haith with the assistance of artist Lisa Jeanne Graf. The colors red, white, and blue represent the fact that the enslaved men and women, as well as their descendants, were Americans. The central star represents Texas, while the bursting star symbolizes new freedom and a fresh start for the formerly enslaved people who were freed in Galveston, Texas.
6. Strawberry soda pop is a popular drink associated with Juneteenth
Juneteenth festivities include prayer and religious services, family reunions, picnics, educational programs, and music and food festivals, including the famous strawberry soda. During the celebration, red-colored foods and beverages such as red velvet cake, barbecue, and red punch are always available. Since the beginning of Juneteenth festivities, the food and beverages offered during the ceremony have been red to represent the blood spilt by slaves.
7. All states recognize Juneteenth
Juneteenth is recognized as a holiday or observance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with around half of the states making it a paid holiday. In other words, two years after it was signed into law as a federal holiday, several states have yet to embrace Juneteenth as a paid public holiday.
8. Former slaves purchased land for Juneteenth celebrations
In 1872, four former slaves (Richard Allen, Richard Brock, Jack Yates, and Elias Dibble) gathered $800 to buy a plot of land for Juneteenth celebrations and christened it Emancipation Park. It is still used for celebrations in Houston, Texas.
9. How Juneteenth was first celebrated
Following Granger’s declaration, the first formal Juneteenth festivities took place in Texas on June 19, 1866. People wore new clothes to symbolize their freedom, in addition to holding prayer services, reciting the Emancipation Proclamation, and singing spirituals. They also had music and food, including the famed strawberry drink, to celebrate. After a few years, Black people in other states began to celebrate the day as well, and it eventually became an annual ritual.
10. Juneteenth celebrations died out for several years
Juneteenth celebrations were on the verge of extinction due to Jim Crow legislation, but the civil rights movement resurrected the holiday. On June 19, 1968, Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Poor People’s March, which coincided with Juneteenth. The marchers returned to their home states with Juneteenth celebrations, which served to revitalize Juneteenth.