Here are 10 little-known Juneteenth facts to share with family, friends and/or students so we can expand our understanding of the significance of the holiday and its history
- The actions in Galveston and coastal Texas surrounding June 19, 1865 impacted (freed) roughly 250,000 enslaved Black people.
- The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to enslaved persons in Confederate states. Even though Juneteenth marks the day that the last remaining enslaved persons in the final Confederate holdout were freed, slavery was not actually abolished as a matter of national policy until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.
- General Gordon Granger’s troops were predominantly Blacks, with scholars estimating them to make up at least 75% of the soldiers that accompanied Granger to Galveston for the reading of General Order Number 3.
- According to UH history professor Dr. Gerald Horne, the story of Gen. Granger’s reading of General Order Number 3 alone did not free the roughly 250,000 still enslaved individuals from their captors. The predominantly Black Union soldiers had to wage war against enslavers who refused to give up what they considered their “property,” making the Juneteenth story one of Black people liberating Black people rather than another “white savior” narrative.
- In his book “The Counter-Revolution of 1836: Texas Slavery, Jim Crow & the Roots of US Fascism,” Horne shows that those same Black Union soldiers who freed Blacks after the June 19, 1865 reading of General Order Number 3 helped put down the attempt of Confederate soldiers working out of Mexico in collaboration with French-controlled and occupied Mexico to revive the Civil War and preserve slavery, by capturing the French-controlled “puppet” leader Maximillian who was executed on June 19, 1867.
- Juneteenth was only possible because the North (Union) won the Civil War. According to award-winning journalist and Howard University professor Nikole Hannah-Jones, “We have to tell the story of Juneteenth as Black people as actors. That we don’t see a northern victory without Black soldiers fighting in the Civil War… About 75% of free Black men of age in the North served in the Union [army]. No other group served at a rate like that.”
- Texans wasted no time beginning the celebration of Juneteenth. The first year anniversary of the original Juneteenth (June 19, 1866) saw the first such celebrations that included community-centric events, such as parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical and cultural readings, and musical performances. Over time, communities have developed their own traditions. Some communities purchased land for Juneteenth celebrations, such as Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas. As families emigrated from Texas to other parts of the United States, they carried Juneteenth celebrations with them.
- On the first anniversary of Juneteenth, white people wasted no time attempting to steal/block Black joy and Black remembrance ritual via enacting segregation laws to prohibit the use of public places and parks to celebrate the holiday. We found a way to celebrate anyway.
- On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth officially became a Texas state holiday. Al Edwards, a freshman state representative, put forward the bill, H.B. 1016, making Texas the first state to grant this emancipation celebration. Since then, the federal government, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia have also commemorated or recognized the day.*
- The first known official movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday began in 1994, and the first congressional resolution recognizing Juneteenth Independence Day was introduced in the 105th Congress in 1997. The Senate and House of Representatives have since introduced these resolutions recognizing Juneteenth annually.*
*(source: “Juneteenth: Fact Sheet,” Congressional Research Service, updated May 30, 2023)