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What is Juneteenth?



 Sarah Maginnis | Lehi Free Press

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Independence Day, is a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas and announced that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved people had been freed.Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, and is informally known as the longest-running African American holiday. 

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, enabling all enslaved people in Confederate states rebelling against the Union to be forever free. While this was an essential step towards the freedom of enslaved people, the Emancipation Proclamation did not take immediate effect as it only involved Confederate territories. There were still border states and areas under Union control that contained enslaved people, and minimal Union troops were available to enforce the order. In addition, Texas had crops that needed labor to harvest them, and enslavers were unwilling to release the enslaved people. Years later, in December of 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, and slavery was finally ended throughout the United States. 

Reconstruction took place from 1865 to 1877, and this period was known as post-emancipation. During this time, there was much struggle and uncertainty, but also much hope. The formerly enslaved sought to take advantage of all the opportunities in the workforce, including political office and the right to pursue legislation. African Americans were elated to transform their lives and their country. 

Despite this newfound freedom, African Americans still faced harsh discrimination. Decades after the end of the war, there was lynching, imprisonment and the foundation of Jim Crow laws. While it is clear progress has been made since then, there are considerable barriers that still must be overcome.

Juneteenth is primarily celebrated in the African American community. However, the holiday remains largely unknown to most Americans, even though many recognize it as America’s second Independence Day. 

This year, since Juneteenth falls on a Sunday, it will be celebrated on Monday, June 20.


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