As we celebrate the 145th anniversary of Juneteenth, also referred to as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, it’s important to reflect upon this historical day in 1865 when Union Major General Gordon Granger and his 2,000 troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Although the Proclamation had abolished slavery in the United States more than two years before this event, there had been minimal impact on most slaves’ day-to-day lives, particularly in Texas, which was almost entirely under Confederate control. Many slaves, in fact, were completely unaware of the law. Granger’s seizure of the state from Confederate troops brought about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas.
Accordingly, Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth an official state holiday.
This year, Mississippi became the 36th state to recognize Juneteenth, which is a significant increase from the 29 states that recognized the day just two years ago. The Rev. Dr. Ronald V. Myers Sr., founder and chairman of the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign and the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF), stated on the NJOF website, “Mississippi joins Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Delaware, Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, California, Wyoming, Illinois, Missouri, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington State, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, Vermont, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and the District of Columbia in recognizing the end of enslavement in America.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is still the only federal holiday that celebrates and recognizes Blacks’ significant contributions to this country’s history. Thousands of petitions have been sent to the White House requesting President Barack Obama make Juneteenth a National Day of Observance and to establish a Presidential National Juneteenth Commission.