Juneteenth is short for June 19. It is the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.


It was on June 19, 1865 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.  Many slaveowners had moved there with their slaves.


President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, but the Civil War continued until May 9,1865. Texas was the most remote territory and the last to receive the news of freedom for black slaves.


The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. It was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865.


The celebration of the freedom began in 1866 with church gatherings and picnics and singing and special soul food. The celebrations spread across the South.


After the assassination of Martin Luther King, more people remembered Juneteenth.


The 1960’s saw the Civil Rights become law. In the 1970’s the African American freedom was celebrated in the arts with dancing, singing and mural painting. By this time Juneteenth was celebrated in major cities in the U.S.


Today, 47 of the 50 states celebrate Juneteenth. Celebrations include singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” as well as reading the Emancipation Proclamation. The writings of Maya Angelo and Ralph Ellison are read. Rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties and historical re-enactments are other ways of celebrating. You can find many excellent books about Juneteenth for children.


Milwaukee began celebrating Juneteenth in 1971. Governor Jim Doyle signed into law Juneteenth as a legal holiday in Wisconsin in 2009. Efforts are under way to have Congress recognize June 19 as a National Day of Observance, a day to celebrate African American heritage, ancestry, and unity.


Juneteenth 2020 has special significance because of the death of George Floyd and the commemorations of his death. There is much for all of us to learn and to commemorate.