6 Things You Need to Know About Juneteenth

If you’ve never heard of Juneteenth before, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Turns out, plenty of Americans could stand to brush up on the details of this oft-forgotten holiday. Without a doubt, it’s a date everyone should know, as Juneteenth marks a very important day in U.S. history. That said, it’s high time we all become familiar with this memorable occasion.

Without further ado, here are six things you need to know about Juneteenth.

1. Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the U.S.

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963 (more on that in a minute). Despite that, the emancipation of slavery didn’t truly take effect until later. Known as Juneteenth, the emancipation of slavery in the U.S. occurred when “Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger marched his soldiers to Galveston, Texas to spread the word that slavery had ended in America,” Fox News reports.

Furthermore, while the signing of the proclamation is certainly an important milestone in our country’s history, knowing that slaves weren’t freed immediately after is equally important.

2. It occurred on June 19, 1865

Juneteenth celebration

People attend Juneteenth celebrations June 19 in Richmond, California. | David Paul Morris/Getty Images

This monumental feat occurred over a century and half ago — on June 19, 1865. And it’s a date all Americans should remember. Unfortunately, though, it hasn’t been made an official national holiday — at least not yet — although some states do recognize it (more on that at No. 6).

3. The emancipation of slavery happened 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation ordered the freeing of more than 3 million slaves in the Confederate states. But because that proclamation was only on paper, it was another couple of years before the news truly made its way around the South. Sadly, a number of slaves spent an additional two years in captivity.

For the record, Abraham Lincoln signed the proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

4. The ongoing Civil War was a major factor in the delay

American Civil War

American Civil War | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

At this point, you know the emancipation of slavery didn’t actually happen until two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. And there’s a reason for that. As Fast Company explains, the “ongoing Civil War prevented freedom from becoming a reality as many plantation owners withheld the news.”

Thankfully, Granger’s march into Texas officially marked the spreading of the news.

5. Texas was the first state to make June 19th an official holiday

Juneteenth may not be most widely-recognized holiday across the country, but clearly, the Lone Star State knows how significant it is. In fact, Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday back in 1979.

6. Juneteenth is a day of observance in most states

Juneteenth has yet to become an official national holiday. It is, however, a “state holiday or a day of observance in most states and the District of Columbia, with only Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, and the Dakotas holding out,” Fast Company reports. Furthermore, the publication says celebrations and parades take place in locations including New York, Texas, and Philadelphia.

Hopefully, Juneteenth will be an official national holiday — someday. Until that day, we can all do our part in knowing the history and significance of June 19th each year when the day comes around.

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