President Barack Obama on Tuesday issued a proclamation commemorating Juneteenth, the annual remembrance of the formal end of slavery in the American south.
Marked as an official holiday in some 42 states, June 19th is celebrated primarily by African-Americans. It marks the date in 1865 when — two and a half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (on September 22, 1862, to go into effect in January 1863) — and two months after the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Union General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas with 2,000 troops and announced General Order #3, which read:
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 free laborer.”
President Obama’s proclamation read:
On this day in 1865, two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, word finally reached the people of Galveston, Texas that the Civil War was over. All enslaved men, women and children were now free.
Though it would take decades of struggle and collective effort before African Americans were granted equal treatment and protection under the law, Juneteenth is recognized by Americans everywhere as a symbolic milestone in our journey toward a more perfect union.
With the recent ground breaking of the first Smithsonian Museum dedicated to African American History and Culture, and the dedication of a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall, this Juneteenth offers another opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come as a nation. And it’s also a chance to recommit ourselves to the ongoing work of guaranteeing liberty and equal rights for all Americans.
One of 48 original copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Lincoln, is set to go on auction later this month and is expected to fetch up to $2.4 million.
For more on the Juneteenth tradition, click here.