On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and forever changed the lives of African-Americans there. Granger announced that the Civil War was over and read and enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in Texas. The Proclamation had been issued two and a half years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln, but many slaves in the southern states were not aware they had gained freedom.
Juneteenth, short for June 19th, is the celebration of the day Texan slaves realized their freedom. Today, Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday in Texas and other parts of the western United States and is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Nationwide, people join together to celebrate this day through picnics, performances, speakers and other activities. The main goal of these events is to promote education and self-improvement as well as cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and culture. The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Mich., have been the sites of Juneteenth-centered activities.
Internationally, Juneteenth is celebrated in places such as Paris and Okinawa, Japan.