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The history behind Juneteenth

Juneteenth is recognized as a celebration of independence -- the day all Americans were truly free.

ATLANTA — *Editor's note: The video in the player above was produced before Juneteenth became a federal holiday.

Many people across the nation will observe Juneteenth on Saturday following a year of worldwide racial reckoning filled with progress but also unjust deaths such as that of George Floyd.

The history of Juneteenth is being brought to the forefront more across social media platforms, but the holiday has been around for many years.

Juneteenth commemorates when the last enslaved people in the south were finally informed of their freedom. 

Juneteenth is recognized as a celebration of independence -- the day all Americans were truly free.

The history 

After four bloody years, the Union defeated the Confederacy to win the Civil War and abolish slavery in April 1865.

According to US census data from 1860, there were nearly 4 million slaves in the US at that time. 

Union armies marched through the southern states to free thousands of slaves daily. However, the news took months to reach Texas -- the westernmost state in the Confederacy.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union troops rode into Galveston, Texas, to tell slaves they were free. 

“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…..” ---General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

Granger’s words spread through Texas and all at once slaves found out the war was over and they were free.

Their joyous, spontaneous celebration gave birth to Juneteenth.

Where did the word come from?

Juneteenth is a combination of the words June and Nineteenth. 

Is it a state or federal holiday?

Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday in 1980. Since then, all but three states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday.

Juneteenth is not a federal holiday in the U.S., but following the summer of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 - private companies such as Nike, Twitter, Tegna, Lyft, and other companies have made Juneteenth a permanent paid holiday for their employees.

Were they truly immediately free?

Many slaves were met with violence or death when they tried to leave, yet the promise of freedom extinguished fear and fueled generations of indestructible people.

The newfound freedom, however, was met with many institutionalized roadblocks. 

Solid-ground.org listed some of the institutionalized roadblocks that hindered African Americans from experiencing their "freedom" in the same ways that white people experience it. 

Black Codes, Jim Crow, institutional racism, and prisons all played a part in impeding Black Americans' ability to live truly free lives, the site listed. The damage from these codes and laws can still be seen and felt in Black communities across the nation. 

How are people celebrating Juneteenth in Atlanta?

Throughout the decades, Black communities have observed the holiday with festive family gatherings, colorful parades, and bountiful bar-b-ques.

During Juneteenth, there are many variations of celebrations taking place throughout Metro Atlanta.



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