Celebrate Juneteenth 2022 at
Juneteenth University: A Virtual Jubilee.
Click photo for details.
The McKenzie Flag is Juneteenth University’s 2022 Texas Emancipation Day flag. CLICK HERE for details.
hours minutes seconds
What is Juneteenth?
June 19 (a.k.a., Juneteenth), is the day Americans celebrate the end of lawful slavery in the United States. Period. Much too often, that simple explanation is revised to, “the day slavery ended”, a definition wholly incorrect. Lawful slavery in the United States ended in December of 1865, not on June 19th. The exact December date is debatable.
On December 6, 1865, Georgia became the last state needed to ratify the 13th amendment which outlawed slavery nationally. On December 18th, the United States constitution was officially amendment by the Secretary of State. Once the 13th amendment became a reality, states and parts of states exempted from the Emancipation Proclamation were required to emancipate their enslaved people. So, did slavery end when the amendment ratified, or was it when the constitution was amended? Pick a day, either day, but not June 19th.
Kentucky and Delaware did not outlaw slavery prior to the 13th Amendment. Therefore, they were the last two states forced to abolish slavery, not Texas. Texas was merely the last of the “states in rebellion” to emancipate enslaved Africans. Furthermore, even in Texas where Juneteenth began, only the enslaved Africans in or near Galveston were emancipated on June 19th. Statewide enforcement of the proclamation required a multi-week military campaign. Even that wasn’t enough.
For many of Galveston’s freedmen, freedom was temporary. Newspapers in Houston and Austin reported that on the same day they were freed, some of Galveston’s freedmen were rounded up and forced back into labor, pending arrival of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The bureau arrived in September – two months later.
Unquestionably, June 19th is a significant Texas holiday, but historical facts and popular beliefs do not agree. According to current Texas history schoolbooks, slaveowners “voluntarily complied” with the Emancipation Proclamation after learning about it, two years and six months after it was issued. No part of that is true.
1) Had slave owners “voluntarily” complied, armed military enforcement would not have been necessary. 2) News of the Emancipation Proclamation was not late arriving in Texas. The document was frequently and publicly discussed among Texans beginning September 13, 1862 or before. On that day, a newspaper in northeast Texas announced Lincoln’s intent to proclaim “universal emancipation.” While many or possibly most of Texas’ chattel may not have known about Lincoln’s proclamation, what they knew was irrelevant. Leaving their owners without permission would not make them freedmen; they would be runaways, subject to capture, punishment, and re-enslavement.
So why is June 19 a national holiday?
The answer is a bit complicated. In Texas, “Juneteenth” identifies two celebrations that share a common date. One is titled Emancipation Day (a state holiday), the other is Juneteenth National Independence Day. Texas Emancipation Day commemorates the day when military enforcement of emancipation began in Texas. Juneteenth National Independence Day symbolically commemorates emancipation regardless of where or when it occurred, nationwide.
Consider this, “Emancipation Day” exists in multiple states and Washington, D.C. It occurs on the dates when emancipation started in each jurisdiction. Texas Emancipation Day (i.e., June 19) was not more important than other state Emancipation Days. It simply acquired more popularity than its counterparts. In turn, it became the date chosen to symbolically represent all emancipation dates. A great way to understand the national Juneteenth is to compare it to Memorial Day – a symbolic date that commemorates all military deaths regardless of when they happened.
Still unclear? Look at Florida. Emancipation there became official on May 20th. Therein, Florida celebrates “Emancipation Day” on May 20th. Thirty days later (June 19th), Florida celebrates national emancipation. The District of Columbia and other locations have similar circumstances. Texas is the only state that officially celebrates state and national emancipation on the same day.
What Really Happened?
On June 5th, the United States Navy arrived in Galveston and raised the flag, symbolically acknowledging the Civil War’s end and the Union’s victory. Two weeks later, (June 16, 1865), ships transporting army troops began arriving in Galveston. On June 19th, General Granger arrived to begin occupation of Texas. Part of that task was to conduct a multi-week campaign to enforce statewide compliance with the Emancipation Proclamation. Reenactments of that historic emancipation moment – though theatrically impressive – are factually incorrect.
- 1) Claiming General Orders #3 a new announcement is incorrect. The message embodied in that order was published in at least one Texas newspaper, two days before it was issued in Galveston.
- 2) General Orders #3, 4 and 5 were ordered by Major General Granger, but issued by the person who signed them, Major Emory. Only orders #1 and 2 were issued and signed by Granger. That means Emory announced and/or posted Orders No. 3. Otherwise, his signature wasn’t necessary, given that he was Granger’s secretary.
- 3) The word “Juneteenth” was not slave vernacular. The term was coined decades after the original celebration.
- 4) Whereas, Galveston was the only town emancipated on the 19th, other Texas towns initially had no reason to celebrate that date. Instead, they celebrated the anniversary of their respective emancipation dates. In October 1868, the Texas supreme court ruled that June 19 was the day that lawful slavery ended in Texas. Beginning the next year (1869), emancipation celebrations outside of Galveston moved to June 19th.
It is the opinion of Juneteenth University that the many inaccuracies that encompass the Juneteenth holiday were fundamental to its survival the eventual national status. The facts of emancipation in Texas are neither engaging, inspiring, or intriguing. On the other hand, the “late news” myth is filled with fascination. There is no reason why fact and myth cannot coexist. Christmas has two explanations; so can Juneteenth. Therein, enjoy the myths, but know the facts. Celebrate emancipation joyously.
Welcome to Juneteenth University
Juneteenth University is a Texas-based, not-for-profit corporation. The organization’s mission is to “emancipate minds” from inaccuracy by encouraging research and promoting fact-based appreciation of Juneteenth National Independence Day and Texas Emancipation Day.