“Juneteenth serves symbolically, and in reality, as a reference point from which to measure and appreciate the progress and contributions made by African Americans to this society.”
On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official Texas state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.
Economic and cultural forces led to a decline in Juneteenth activities and participants beginning in the early 1900’s. Classroom and textbook education in lieu of traditional home and family-taught practices stifled the interest of the youth due to less emphasis and detail on the lives of former slaves. Classroom textbooks proclaimed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 as the date signaling the ending of slavery – and mentioned little or nothing of the impact of General Granger’s arrival on June 19th.
News of the end of slavery did not reach the frontier areas of the United States, in particular the State of Texas, until months after the conclusion of the Civil War, more than 2½ years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were free.
Juneteenth Independence Day became a day of celebration held to honor African-American freedom while encouraging respect for all cultures.