Although U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery on Jan. 1, 1863, freedom didn’t come for enslaved African Americans living in Texas until June 19, 1865 -- a full two and a half years later.
Today that anniversary, known as Juneteenth, is celebrated as “emancipation day” with parades, picnics, family gatherings and public celebrations. Many also fly the Juneteenth flag, which echoes the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag, and features a center star representing Texas, and an outer starburst representing a new beginning for African Americans.
“Juneteenth is a time of celebration for all Americans,” said J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary treasurer. “I encourage members to learn more about this important holiday and share that knowledge with their students.”
Union General Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas to issue General Order Number 3, which officially enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered in April.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth celebrates the end of African American slavery in the United States. President Joe Biden established Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021.
When is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is observed on June 19, marking the day Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved African Americans that slavery had been abolished.
The name is comprised of the words ‘June’ and ‘nineteenth.’
Who should celebrate Juneteenth?
Everyone! Learning about our nation’s history, and acknowledging our past helps us improve as a society and teaches empathy. Juneteenth today celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures.
Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”
Opal Lee, a retired Texas teacher, counselor, and activist, is often described as the “grandmother of Juneteenth.”
- She campaigned for decades to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, leading annual 2.5 miles walks to represent the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas.
- At age 89, she conducted a symbolic walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., leaving in September 2016 and arriving in Washington in January 2017.
- She promoted a Change.org petition for a Juneteenth federal holiday, garnering 1.6 million signatures.
- At age 94, she was an honored guest at the 2021 bill-signing ceremony declaring Juneteenth a national holiday.
- In 2022, over 30 Congressional members nominated Lee for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Use these resources to teach your students about Juneteenth: