Today marks Juneteenth, an annual celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States in 1865.
If you’re wondering why it took more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation for slaves to be free, it’s because that proclamation applied only to enslaved people in Union territory.
It wasn’t until April 9, 1865 that Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, ending the civil war and extending the Emancipation Proclamation to the Confederate states. But even then, Union soldiers still had to enforce the law in the south. Texas ignored the Emancipation Proclamation altogether.
But on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and Union troops arrived at Galveston, Texas and proclaimed that “all slaves are free.”
Juneteenth celebrates that freedom. The holiday hasn’t always been in the spotlight, but it has experienced a steady resurgence since the Civil Rights movement and is now a state holiday or special day of observance in 45 states and the District of Columbia.
The holiday is marked by festivals, parades, and barbecues, but Juneteenth is not only a cultural and historical event, but also a political one.
Today, on the 154th anniversary of Juneteenth, the United States House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on reparations.