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Honoring Juneteenth

By Margaret A. Keough

That on the 1st day of January. A.D. 1863, all person held as slaves within any state…in rebellion against the U.S. shall be then, thenceforward and forever free.

– A. Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation, September 22, 1863

On June 19, 1865, over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger, Union commander of the Department of Texas, read ‘General Order No. 3’ from his headquarters in Galveston, which stated “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.” With this notice, the reconstruction era in Texas began.

Black Americans celebrated June 19th independently for almost a century before Texas became the first state to recognize it as a state holiday in 1979. Today, 47 states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday and many institutions and organizations observe the day with time off.

Juneteenth is the only holiday that acknowledges the sacrifice and labor of the Black enslaved people that built this country’s economy. It is a celebration of Black freedom, resilience, and life. Let it remind us that real change is painful, yet possible.

Mid-America Arts Alliance recognizes the importance of this day and we honor the contributions of Black Americans to this country.