A Brief History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States and originated from Galveston, Texas in 1865.

Two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863, Major General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston with news that the war had ended and that slaves were free. Because of the small amount of Union troops in the South, many states did little to enforce the executive order. With the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865 and the arrival of General Granger’s forces, they were finally able to influence and overcome the resistance.

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

Major General Gordon Granger

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. On June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

The observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the U.S. as cities and organizations come together in appreciation, reconciliation and commemoration. Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom, emphasizes on education and achievement, and encourages continuous self-development. It is a day, a week, and in some areas, a month marked with celebrations, community, food, and family gatherings. 

Here at the South Dallas Cultural Center, we celebrate Juneteenth and the freedom of African Americans daily. SDCC seeks to promote a more equitable, cooperative, and empathetic community by engaging the public with art and cultural experiences influenced by the African Diaspora.

Official Juneteenth Poem:

We Rose
From Africa’s heart, we rose
Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
We rose
Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose
Survive we must, we did,
We rose
We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose
To become the knowledge we never knew,
We rose
Dream, we did
Act we must
- "We Rose" poem by Kristina Kay, 1996

Learn more about Juneteenth and its origins by visiting Juneteenth.com

Want to test your knowledge? Join SDCC for our Juneteenth Trivia Night Friday, July 17