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June 16, 2008

Approaching: Juneteenth

A lesser known holiday by the nation as a whole is Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.  This is the day that word finally reached the last remaining town in the South stating that the slaves are now free.

Though Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, it caused little change.  Spreading word of the the slaves' emancipation was resisted and slowed by the slave-owning south.  In Texas, nearly 3 years after the emancipation had been signed, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops marched into Galveston, TX to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves.

That day has since become known as Juneteenth, a name derived from a portmanteau of the words June and nineteenth.

Former slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations. Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year.[7] Across many parts of Texas, freed people pooled their funds to purchase land specifically for their communities’ increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings—including Houston’s Emancipation Park, Mexia’s Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin.[7] Juneteenth celebrations include a wide range of festivities, such as parades, street fairs, cookouts, or park parties and include such things as music and dancing or even contests of physical strength and intellect. Baseball and other popular American games may also be played.

Curiously, only 26 of our 50 United States observe the holiday.  Several states have proclaimed it an official state holiday while nearly half the nation does not consider this an event worthy of naming a holiday. 

Why not make it a federal holiday?


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