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  • Writer's pictureKent Area (OH) Chapter Communications

The History Behind Juneteenth

Since 1865, June 19th has been the annual Day of Jubilee marking the end of slavery in America. While the official date was marked with the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the news was not heard in Texas until June 19, 1865.

Celebrating Juneteenth Since 1865

Juneteenth carriages were grand affairs in Texas. While each town had its unique take on Emancipation festivities, these photos from Texas in the early 1900s showcase a special tradition of buggies, carts and wagons elaborately decorated with flowers. Passengers donned their best outfits to ride in community celebrations.

Why Did It Take So Long For The Word To Spread?

Although slavery was declared illegal in 1865, according to the Library of Congress as long as the Civil War continued, confederate states resisted freedom for slaves. “The Proclamation only applied to states “in rebellion against the United States,” so states that were still part of the Union where slaves were held could act to free slaves or not, depending upon the will of state legislators and voters. It did signal that the end of legal slavery was nearing, but there was great variation on how states responded.”

Learn About The History Behind Juneteenth

There are excellent resources available to help us remember and commemorate Juneteenth. Highlighted in this post are a new book by award-winning historian Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed, insights from Opal Lee, the activist who spearheaded the Juneteenth campaign, and primary sources from the Houston Public Library Digital Archives and the National Archives.

Who Is Dr. Opal Lee? The Grandmother of Juneteenth

Civil rights icon Dr. Opal Lee walked 1,400 miles from her Texas home to the White House, calling for Juneteenth to become of federal holiday. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed Senate Bill S. 475, making Juneteenth the eleventh federal holiday.

“I am hoping that Juneteenth will not just be about festivals but that

it will be about uplifting each other.”

— Dr. Opal Lee, The Grandmother of Juneteenth

Through our commitment to service and uplifting communities, we stand in solidarity by celebrating Juneteenth and continuing the fight for a more equitable future for all.

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