On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger of the U.S. army stood on Texas land and recited General Orders No. 3 stating:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it did not free all slaves until nearly three years later.
“The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate control and not to slave-holding border states or rebel areas already under Union control,” according to History.
On June 19,1865, about 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to take control over the state. Due to the executive order, more than 250,000 Texas slaves were granted their freedom.
Examined as the longest-running African American holiday in the U.S., also known as “Juneteenth,” marks the complete end of slavery in the United States.
“It reminds us of what the country is about and what the country should be about,” professor of History and African American Studies at UCLA, Brenda E. Stevenson, told Scriberr News.
“That’s always significant, but particularly during a time when we have national and global protests, in regards to equality under the law also speaks very mightily to the protest movement that we’re having right now,” she said.
Juneteenth is not recognized as a federal holiday because only three states do not acknowledge it nationally.
“I believe many know about Juneteenth and its history, but have not recognized it as a significant day because our government does not recognize it and often tries to forget the awful past and trauma they’ve placed on citizens of this country,” member and activist of the United Panthers, “B” told Scriberr News.
United Panthers is an organization modeled after the historical Black Panther party, calling for radical political action.
Recently, there’s been a push to make Juneteenth a national holiday to recognize the end of slavery in America.
On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Juneteenth would be an official holiday in the state of Virginia.
“Every year, as a nation, we mark the Fourth of July, celebrating our independence from English colonial rule—but that freedom did not include everyone. It’s time we elevate #Juneteenth, not just as a celebration by and for some, but one acknowledged and commemorated by all of us,” Gov. Northam tweeted.
Professor Stevenson is originally from Virginia, and she expressed her gratitude towards the executive order made by Gov. Northam.
“I’m glad that Governor Northam and the rest of the state have come to decide that they want to indicate very strongly that they believe in equality, racial equality,” Stevenson said.
Following Gov. Northam’s initiative action, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees on Wednesday.
“On this day, we stop to think about, freedom came to African Americans on this day, but then it becomes part of, we continue to revisit the idea of equality in our society. And the more holidays we have that allows us to do that, I think the better,” Stevenson said.
On Thursday, President Trump commented on the upcoming holiday, stating, “I made Juneteenth very famous. It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”
Trump received a large amount of backlash towards his comments with CNN commentator Keith Bokin tweeting, “Black people have been celebrating Juneteenth since 1865, but Trump learned about it last week, and now he wants to take credit.”
Trump’s press secretary told reporters on Thursday that “The African American community is very near and dear to his heart. At these rallies he often shares the great work he has done for minority communities,” citing criminal justice reform––or the First Step Act which releases thousands of non-violent, often minority offenders from prison––and donating millions of dollars to historically black colleges.
Trump originally planned his campaign rally on the holiday in Tulsa, but after much pushback, he moved it to June 20.
Originally, Juneteenth was celebrated mainly in Texas and Louisiana or the Gulf Region. But over the last few decades, it has gained popularity, specifically during the Civil Rights Movement and today, Stevenson explained.
Texans began celebrating this day of freedom in 1866, and as people moved out of Texas, the holiday continued to grow throughout the country.
“I’m not certain where President Trump gets this idea of his association with the popularity of Juneteenth,” Stevenson said. “But I do know that African American historians and people who live in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma and many other places have known about, commemorated, and thought about Juneteenth for over 100 years now.”
On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) announced, “the portraits of four former House Speakers will be removed from display in the Capitol this Friday in observance of Juneteenth,” according to NPR.
Sen. Cory Booker (D- NJ) also made an effort to pass a resolution that would remove Confederate statues from the Capitol.
This task has become famous for the Black Lives Matter Movement as people urge their government to remove statues of Confederate leaders.
“Confederate statues glorify traitors who took up arms against our country to uphold the vile institution of slavery. Let us not hesitate a moment longer to remove these symbols of white supremacist violence and hate from our Capitol,” Sen. Booker tweeted.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo) blocked the Senate from passing the bill, according to The Hill. Blunt told reporters that the decision should be up to individual states to create new laws banning statues of confederate leaders.
“I’d like to … get the opinion of people who are taking similar statues out of the building. I’d also like to find out what other states have in mind as their part of this agreement,” Blunt said
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday, “What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery,” in response to an arrangement in a defense bill that would change the names of military bases named after Confederate leaders.
“You know, there were eight presidents who owned slaves. Washington did. Jefferson did. Madison did. Monroe did. Look, as far as the statues are concerned, every state gets two. Any state can trade out, as Sen. Blunt pointed out, if they choose to. And some actually are choosing to,” he said.
Juneteenth is being celebrated through marches, peaceful protests, festivals, and to commemorate a day of independence, in cities such as Chicago, Boston, Oakland, Atlanta, and more.
“Juneteenth should be a reminder to us that until we are freed from systemic oppression, we are not truly free. Until we can obtain ownership and land until our ghettos are turned into humane living environments, our schools are equal, and we are not slain like bears in the forest, then this fight does not end,” B said.