5 facts about Juneteenth, marking the last day of slavery

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5 facts about Juneteenth, marking the last day of slavery

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Shackles for slave children are pictured here on display at the New  York Historical Society in 2012 in New York City. A rare handwritten copy of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, was also part of the exhibit. Some states didn’t get the word about the abolition of slavery in 1862. The news didn’t reach Texas until June 19, 1865, with that date being celebrated as Juneteenth.  

Monday marks a pivotal point in American history. One hundred and fifty-two years ago, on June 19, 1865, the last slaves in Texas and, more broadly, in the Confederate South were freed.

Nationally and in southern cities, like Atlanta, the day has traditionally been celebrated with parades, plays and other festivities that honor the African-American culture that developed during and after slavery.

Actress Jasmine waters (R) and Anterior leverett (C) act out a scene about the lives of newly liberated slaves at the Atlanta History Center, Saturday during the center's Juneteenth Jubilee onJune 17, 2017. Juneteenth is a celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.  Steve Schaefer/Special to the AJC

Here are 5 answers to some of the questions about Juneteenth:

Didn’t the Emancipation Proclamation end slavery years earlier?

Yes and No. Abraham Lincoln made slavery illegal with the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, which became federal law on January 1, 1863. However, it took nearly two-and-half years for that message to be relayed to Texas.

How did Juneteenth begin? 

On June 19, 1865, Major Gen. Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, to inform a reluctant community that President Abraham Lincoln two years earlier had freed the slaves and to press locals to comply with his directive. On this day, Granger announced “General Order No. 3.”

Prior to Granger’s declaration, there was an estimated 250,000 slaves residing in Texas, according to historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

What caused the delay in Texans receiving this news?

 

Some have noted that Texas geographic isolation may have played a role in the delay. According to Juneteenth.com, some accounts place the delay on a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news, while others say the news was deliberately withheld.

Even with the order, slavery did not end in Texas overnight, according to report by Gates. Many slave owners traveled to Texas with their slaves to escape regulations enforced by the Union Army in other states for some time.

Why is it called Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a combination of "June" and "nineteenth," in honor of the day that Granger announced the abolition of slavery in Texas. The day is also called Freedom Day.

How are people honoring Juneteenth today?

While parades and festivals took place over the weekend, today several people across social media have created tributes to keep the history of Juneteenth alive.

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