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More of a visual learner? Read the transcript of this week's Galveston Unscripted podcast episode below:
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Prior to the American Civil War, slavery had firmly taken root as an institution within the United States, especially in the southern states, subjecting millions of African Americans to endure oppression, labor exploitation, and the denial of their human rights. The National Holiday known as Juneteenth has its roots in Galveston, Texas, stemming from orders to grant enslaved people of Texas absolute equality by the United States Army. June 19, 1865, marked a pivotal moment in history when enslaved individuals across the state finally learned of their freedom, becoming a symbol of liberation for the enslaved people of Texas and the United States.
The American Civil War broke out in 1861 and was finally concluded in 1865 after years of horrific battling across the divided nation. In the southern states that seceded from the Union, known as the Confederate States of America, slavery was practiced and played a significant role in the economic capacity of the Southern agriculture economy. In the middle of the Civil War, on the eve of January 1, 1863, a significant event occurred in the United States. The prayers of enslaved African Americans were answered as they learned that all enslaved individuals in the Confederate States were declared legally free. This historic moment marked the beginning of a long journey toward freedom.
As the Civil War waged on, the news would take more than two years to reach the enslaved people in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas. The Confederate States did not recognize Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, as the Proclamation could only be enforced once the Union Army arrived to ensure freedom. The Civil War ended as the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1865.
The next campaign for the Union Army was set on quelling the rebelling Confederate soldiers and spreading the word of freedom across the remaining slaveholding states. On June 19, 1865, a day known as Juneteenth, the Union Army, including the United States Colored Troops, arrived in Galveston Bay and occupied the city of Galveston, the only significant Confederate port city to repel the Union's attempts at capture. General Gordon Granger, now in control of Galveston, issued a series of General Orders to the people of Texas. General Order Number 3 finally freed more than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.
The news spread across Texas through word of mouth, printed handbills, and Newspapers. For the newly freed people, this day became known as Juneteenth, a combination of "June" and "nineteenth." The order marked their long-awaited liberation from slavery and symbolized hope and perseverance. Juneteenth celebrations spread throughout Texas and eventually expanded to other states, highlighting the day as an essential event in American history.
The post-emancipation period known as Reconstruction (1865-1877) brought both hope and challenges. Formerly enslaved individuals seized the opportunity to reunify their families, establish schools, engage in politics, and seek justice for the injustices they had endured. This era marked a time of significant transformation and resilience as African Americans actively participated in shaping their lives and the future of the nation.
Juneteenth remained relatively unknown to many Americans despite its historical significance for years. However, the legacy and importance of Juneteenth are now gaining wider recognition. It represents a second independence day for the United States, commemorating the end of slavery and the resilience of the African American community. Juneteenth celebrations involve parades, family gatherings, music, and storytelling, honoring the struggles and triumphs of those who fought for freedom.
Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and resilience, marking the emancipation of enslaved individuals in Texas and the nation. This historically significant event serves as a reminder of the importance of hope and freedom for all. June 19, 1865. Galveston, Texas.