This week we celebrate our newest national holiday, Juneteenth.
On June 19th, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to proclaim the end of slavery, effectively ending the practice in the former Confederate states. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but there was a two and a half year gap on the freeing of enslaved people in southern states due to the Civil War. However, General Lee surrendered his forces at Appomattox Courthouse in April, ending the conflict and giving Union forces the ability to travel through the South, proclaiming the freedom of those enslaved. Texas happened to be the last place they encountered slaves unaware of their freedom, finally reaching them on what we now known as “Juneteenth.” By December of that year, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, ending slavery in the last two Union states with the institution in place (Deleware and Kentucky). The following year, the celebration of Juneteenth began, and as people relocated from Texas to other places, the tradition spread across the country. Now, we enjoy this day together as a national holiday, signed into law in 2021. It is an opportunity for freedom-loving Americans—of every race, color, and creed—to express their thankfulness that a shameful flaw in our national character was finally corrected, never to be seen again.