Commemorating Juneteenth

Posted on: Jun, 14, 2022

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Last year, the United States officially recognized Juneteenth as a Federal holiday, commemorating the moment in 1865 when U.S. troops reached the Confederate state of Texas and enslaved people learned that they were free from bondage.

Although President Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation and outlawed slavery two years prior, not much had changed in some parts of the U.S. The news that slavery had been outlawed traveled slowly, without the modern forms of media that we know today and with the “ruling class” maintaining control of the media that did exist. In many places, plantation owners and slave masters had the power to decide when and how to release this information. Often, the news was not shared until government officials arrived to enforce the proclamation.

On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 troops arrived on the beach in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the last remaining Confederate state.  The following day, General Granger read General Order No. 3: “The People of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

General Granger’s proclamation signaled freedom for more than 250,000 enslaved people. Celebrations broke out and Juneteenth was born. Slavery was formally abolished later that year with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.

On June 19, 1866, formerly enslaved people in Galveston exercised their right to celebrate freedom and organized the first of what would become an annual “Jubilee Day” celebration on June 19th. The early Juneteenth celebrations included prayer meetings, singing spirituals, and wearing new clothes as a way to represent newfound freedom.  Juneteenth celebrations began to occur annually throughout the country, with Texas becoming the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday in 1979.

Today, Juneteenth is recognized as a national holiday, providing the opportunity to reflect on the experiences, labor, and lives of enslaved people, and to recognize the contributions members of the Black community have made to this country.

Grays Harbor College will be closed on Monday, June 20th in commemoration of Juneteenth. Please join us in celebrating the steps that are being taken to end racism while simultaneously acknowledging that, even 157 years later, there is still much work to be done in our world, our country, and here at GHC.