Juneteenth: A Holiday Honoring the Abolition of US Slavery


Juneteenth takes place every year on June 19. The holiday commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas and other Confederate States of America.

On that date in 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the emancipation of all slaves. The event took place more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and two months after the April surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to Union forces.

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Juneteenth was widely celebrated within African American communities throughout the second half of the 19th century. After a period of decline in the 1900s, it experienced a growing resurgence sparked in part by the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

While it’s not yet a federal holiday, nearly all 50 U.S. states, including Illinois, observe Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday. In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official state holiday.

2019 also marks 400 years since the forced arrival of Africans to British-controlled North America was first documented in 1619 – although scholars point out that the history of Africans in America is both complicated – and predates 1619.

Debates aside, the 400-year anniversary is the theme of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition’s upcoming summer convention in Chicago: “400 Years Later: Repairing the Damage Done, 1619.”

Joining us to discuss Juneteenth and African American history in general are Jonathan Jackson, the national spokesman of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; and Erica Griffin, the director of education and public programs at the DuSable Museum of African American History.


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