Although only recently signed as a federal holiday in June 2021, Juneteenth goes way back in history, and we want to take some time to honor this significant holiday.
Do you know why Juneteenth is a day worth celebrating? Here’s a brief history and some ideas to celebrate.
The Historical Significance of Juneteenth
We all know the Emancipation Proclamation was given by President Abraham Lincoln when he issued an executive order to free slaves. Although it was a significant step, it was only the beginning of a long journey.
For one, the proclamation only made slavery illegal in confederate states in rebellion. Also, with the Civil War, enforcing the law was nearly impossible. Beyond that, the message wasn’t received in some areas, like Texas.
Two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas to proclaim the war had ended and all slaves were free (SOPHE.org).
This is why we celebrate Juneteenth. That day on June 19, when the war ended and the Union Soldiers traveled to Texas to announce the end of slavery was the most significant step toward freedom for all Americans.
Once the 13th amendment was passed in December 1865, slavery was officially ended in the United States.
Ohio’s Role in the Civil War
As a school in Ohio, it’s important to know that our great state was actually played a key role in aiding the Union to victory in the Civil War, for a number of reasons:
- Ohio was the third most populated Union state and was a key role in providing troops, officers and supplies
- Some of the Union’s greatest generals came from Ohio, including Ulysses S. Grant. In fact, five Ohio-born Civil War officers would later serve become the President of the United States
- Although prior to the war, Ohio played an important part in the Underground Railroad and Ohio remained a haven for many runaway slaves
Other Facts About Juneteenth
- The first celebrations of Juneteenth date all the way back to 1865
- Texas was the first to make Juneteenth an official state holiday on January 1, 1980
- Strawberry soda pop was once a popular drink associated with celebrating the day
- Juneteenth became a federal holiday largely because of Opal Lee’s efforts, the “Grandma of Juneteenth.” The 94-year-old activist marched to Washington and in 2021, it became an official federal holiday
Ways to Celebrate This Juneteenth
Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing and baseball are just a few of the typical Juneteenth activities you may witness today. Here are a few other ideas:
- Read! There is so much history to learn
- Head to one of Ohio’s Civil War battle sites or the birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant. You can find locations here.
- Cook a meal that’s a tradition in your family and invite family and friends for a gathering. You can exchange facts or quotes and discuss how historical events have impacted your life today.
There are many other ways to celebrate. You can find some more ideas at Juneteenth.com.
We hope you have a great Juneteenth and learn something new this year!