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Juneteenth and Absolute Equality

Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., marks an important step towards absolute equality in America.

By Rachel Knight ‘18

The Emancipation Proclamation declared all enslaved people free beginning on January 1, 1863. However, the news didn’t spread through the entire South until it reached Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. 

“That was when the U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger read a General Order in Galveston, proclaiming enforceable freedom for 200,000 enslaved Black Texans,” Joe Feagin, a Texas A&M distinguished sociology professor, explained. “White Texas slaveholders had ignored Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation until Granger arrived with Union troops months after the Confederacy had surrendered.”

Today, the abolition of slavery in Texas is celebrated nationwide during a holiday called Juneteenth, a merger of the words “June” and “nineteenth.” 

“What Juneteenth really signifies is not just celebrating the end of slavery, but African Americans also trying to figure out the meaning of freedom,” Albert Broussard, a Texas A&M University distinguished history professor, said.

Feagin said while partaking in the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., we should also remember the man responsible for making Juneteenth an official state holiday in Texas. 

“Though many African Americans had previously celebrated the date, African American Texas State Representative Al Edwards was the hero in getting it passed, after a political struggle, as a state holiday in 1979,” Feagin shared. “Slowly thereafter, often called America’s second Independence Day, it was officially recognized as an important commemorative day celebrating slavery’s end  in most U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Today much of Texas and U.S. slavery’s cruel legacy remains and must now be further eradicated.”

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and equality, making it an important day to commemorate in a country founded on the belief that “all men are created equal” and have “inalienable rights.”

“For the same reason it’s important to celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s important to remember Juneteenth because slavery really is one of the great stains on this nation’s history,” Broussard said.

For more information about the Galveston mural and the meaning behind it, visit the Houston Chronicle.