President Obama marked Juneteenth Tuesday (June 19), with a proclamation encouraging the public to reflect on “how far we’ve come as a nation.” The holiday, commemorates the official announcement of the abolishment of slavery in the state of Texas, which was initially resistant to the idea.
Although only celebrated by 42 states, the POTUS spoke on the importance of the holiday, recounting all the work that it took for slaves to be granted their freedom. “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,” he said. ”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.”
Despite issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and making it effective as of January 1, 1863, little changed for slaves until years later. Juneteenth commemorates June 18 and 19, 1865. On the latter date, General Gordon Granger and his 2,000 troops trek to Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state, thus enforcing emancipation.
Primarily observed by Black people, Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery.