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Juneteenth: Freedom Day

By Maurice Winkfield, Executive Director of Oncology Services and Cancer Center Operations

Happy Freedom Day! Did you know that June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, and several other monikers is now a major holiday in the United States and considered the end of slavery in America? Here is a quick review of American history and what happened towards the end and after the Civil War.

On January 1, 1863, (also known as “Freedom Eve”) enslaved and free African Americans gathered across the country awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. At midnight, the Emancipation technically meant that all slaves in the America were legally “free.” Union soldiers, many of whom were black, marched onto plantations and across cities in the south reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation spreading the news of freedom in Confederate States. However, everyone didn’t get to enjoy this newfound freedom.

The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by President Lincoln during the Civil War. Most slave owners in the deep south, especially in states under confederate rule, ignored the executive order and kept slaves captive and unable to realize their freedom. Some slaves knew about their emancipation, but with no military force available to support and enforce the presidential order they had no means to escape enslavement. Freedom thankfully arrived two years later, on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas.

Led by General Gordon Granger, the army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as "Juneteenth," by the newly freed people in Texas; striking a mighty blow to the institution of slavery in the United States and ending slavery in Texas and most of the United States.

Later that year the Thirteenth Amendment which formally ended and outlawed slavery would be signed into law on December 6th, 1865. This removed the physical shackles of the enslaved in the United States.

Learn more about Juneteenth by clicking on the links below:

Here are ways everyone can honor Juneteenth:

  1. Learn the history of Juneteenth.
  2. Watch a documentary about slavery.
  3. Visit a museum.
  4. Read books written by Black authors and poets.
  5. Listen to audiobooks written or narrated by Black authors and poets.
  6. Support Black-owned businesses.