Little Known Black History Fact: The Meaning of the Juneteenth Celebration

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COTTON TO BE SHIPPED TO NEW-ORLEANS OR NEW- YORK.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS, GALVESTON, TEXAS, June 19, 1865.

Many legends were told in regards to why it took so long for the slaves in Texas to be informed about the end of the war. Some say that the messenger who was to deliver word that the Confederate lost the war was killed along the way. Others believed the plantation owners withheld the information, waiting for the next cotton harvest before saying a word. Unfortunately, there were written witness accounts of slaves who immediately tried to flee their plantations after receiving the news and were killed on sight or hung. Some slaves continued to work in servitude, undergoing the same punishments prior to the Emancipation Proclamation’s issuance or their knowledge of the decree.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.

Today, people all over the country celebrate Juneteenth with rodeos, fishing, barbecues and picnics with an emphasis on education and self-improvement. Institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities.

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