TRENTON, N.J. – On the 155th anniversary of its creation, Assemblyman Antwan McClellan shares the important history behind the holiday known as Juneteenth.
“Juneteenth is not just an African-American holiday, but an American holiday. Did you know that even after the end of the Civil War and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, some African-Americans were still in shackles? After the Civil War ended, many of the ‘slave states’ failed to uphold President Lincoln’s executive order ending slavery and commanding all former slaves be set free. Texas, being our most remote ‘slave state,’ had a small Union presence, so carrying out the order was sluggish and unreliable.
“So, on June 19th, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas, and read aloud the federal orders that stated all formerly enslaved people were free men and women. The former slaves rejoiced, and celebrations broke out across Galveston. The next year ‘Jubilee Day,’ or Juneteenth, was created to commemorate the day every enslaved person in America finally got the chance to taste freedom. It is also a solemn reminder of a painful time in American history that must never be repeated.
“Juneteenth is a day to reflect on how far we have come, and to refocus on the work that still needs to be done. Racial tensions in America are extremely tense, but this will pass. Juneteenth is proof of that. Things can change for the better and they will if we all work together.”