January 1, 1863, almost three years into the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all enslaved people in the Confederate states were free. But Lincoln’s executive order did not fully abolish slavery in the U.S., as it didn’t apply to those held as property in bordering states who were loyal to the Union.
Despite the proclamation, in Texas, slavery was largely unaffected. The confederates considered the state a safe space for slaveholders, as it remained generally unoccupied by Union Army soldiers during the war.
On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, 2,000 Union troops led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce that the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were now free. In 1866, the first Juneteenth anniversary celebration happened.
Juneteenth is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
In 1872, a group of formerly enslaved people put together $800 and purchased 10 acres of land in Houston, Texas, for the city’s annual Juneteenth celebrations. They named the space Emancipation Park, and it plays host to Juneteenth celebrations even now.
This historic day was celebrated by Black people across Texas as “Jubilee Day” until the 1890s. The annual ritual that would become known as “Juneteenth” gradually spread throughout the South and eventually, the rest of the country, becoming a federal holiday in 2021.
Today, Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom from enslavement and is often referred to as African American Independence Day. It is a day, a week, a month, marked with celebrations, cultural performances, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. An opportunity not only to celebrate but also to speak out.
Today, we deliberately gather in commUNITY to recognize the importance of Black Liberation as we commemorate Juneteenth. We invite you to intentionally breathe, reflect & rejoice as you give yourself permission to relax because here, in commUNITY, you can. Whether here to support The Bridge and our mission, learn more or educate others, we thank you for celebrating with us, here, today.