This 2019 Juneteenth parade in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, featured cyclists.
As you may know from history, Americans fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed all enslaved people in Confederate states. But it could only be enforced in areas controlled by the Union army. In much of the South slavery persisted. For millions, freedom did not come until the war’s end in April 1865.
In Texas, about 250,000 enslaved people had to wait even longer. The news didn’t reach Texas until Union troops arrived in Galveston on June 19. The good news spread gradually across the state. Soon after, June 19 became a day to celebrate freedom.
The festivities marking June 19—called Juneteenth—often began with the singing of the hymn “Lift Every Voice.” African Americans celebrated with picnics, family reunions, parades, pageants, barbecues, and ball games. Some white Americans did not necessarily applaud the merrymaking, though. Many early Juneteenth events were pushed to the edge of town. Over time, African American organizations raised money to buy land where they could hold gatherings, including Juneteenth events.
In Texas, Juneteenth became a state holiday in 1980. Today, events include people of all races. Celebrations have spread to other states, as well. In fact, all but three U.S. states have recognized Juneteenth through official holidays. Juneteenth has even spread to other countries. South Korea, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Japan are a few of the countries where Juneteenth festivals have been held.