On June 17, 2021, a bill was signed into law to recognize Juneteenth as the newest federal holiday in the United States. Juneteenth (which is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth”) honors the end to slavery in the United States. It marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed two and a half years prior by President Abraham Lincoln, it did little to instantly free any enslaved peoples. Individuals continued to be enslaved in the state of Texas.
Then, in the summer of 1865, U.S. General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and read a formal order stating that “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Throughout the state celebrations broke out among the newly freed peoples, and Juneteenth was born. In December of 1865, slavery in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.
The following year, the first of what became the annual celebration of “Jubilee Day,” was held by the freedmen of Texas on June 19. In the decades that followed, Juneteenth commemorations have extended across the nation and are marked by music, community gatherings, prayer services and shared meals.
Evolution of the Nation’s Newest Federal Holiday
All BSD students, families, educators and community members are invited to learn more about the history and significance of Juneteenth by joining Dr. Quintard Taylor virtually as he presents and engages in discussion on Juneteenth: The Evolution of the Nation’s Newest Federal Holiday.
The event, sponsored by BSD Equity and Family Engagement teams, is next in the speaker series, “Black History Beyond February,” and will take place on Tuesday, June 14, from 5:15 – 6:19 p.m.
Dr. Quintard Taylor is an historian, author, and website founder and director. From July 1, 1998, until June 30, 2018, Dr. Taylor was the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington, Seattle and held the oldest endowed chair at the university. He is now retired and holds the title, the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Professor Emeritus.
Dr. Taylor is the author of The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era, described in 2020 as one of the 10 most influential books published by the University of Washington Press in the past century, and In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the America West, 1528-1990, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in history.