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NEWS | June 25, 2013

What is Juneteenth?

By Toby Housey 628th Air Base Wing, Equal Opportunity office

Juneteenth is an annual observance of the emancipation of slaves in the state of Texas. Despite the fact that slavery was abolished as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation that went into effect Jan.1, 1863, slaves in the state of Texas did not get to experience freedom until almost two and a half years later.

There are many stories in circulation as to the delay of this freedom, but in 1865, Gen. Gordon Grainger entered the city of Galveston, Texas with Union soldiers and read Gen. Order Number 3, which in essence brought notice to the abolishment of slavery. As a result of this newly found freedom, former slaves began celebrating Juneteenth, because it was on June 19, 1865, that Grainger brought this news to the people Galveston.

Juneteenth provides us another opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the freedoms we as a nation hold dear. Initially, the holiday was observed in Texas, but is now observed as a state holiday in more than 40 states, to include South Carolina.

Many individuals celebrate the event by reading the Emancipation Proclamation and hosting festive events. These events include barbeques, dancing, singing, special foods and reflecting on family heritage. While this observance began as a celebration in the African-American community by former slaves celebrating their newly discovered freedom, it has now evolved into a celebration honoring and celebrating equal rights for all cultures.

So how will you celebrate the next Juneteenth observance?