Juneteenth is an internationally renowned national holiday in the United States, commemorating the freeing of African-American slaves on June 14th. It is regularly observed throughout the country for celebrating African-American cultural heritage. Also referred to as “Thanksgiving Day”, it is typically observed in different parts of the country on the third Monday of June. The custom has grown increasingly popular over time with a lot of communities all across the United States. Its observance is widely considered a family event, particularly for children.
What exactly is Juneteenth, as well as where does it occur? Juneteenth historically began in Galveston, Texas. A celebration was held there by plantation owners in honor of freed slaves that had joined the Union troops during the Civil War. At the time of their celebration, they had asked for white volunteers to help free black Americans who were left without financial or personal means. This initiated the practice of “juneteenth balls” where family and friends would gather to celebrate the end of slavery in the Lone Star State.
As outlined by historians, the confederacy had been formed out of differences between slave and free states prior to the Civil War. Slaves in the southern states remained loyal to the Union cause, whereas those in the northern states remained loyal to the Confederate cause. Because of this, when the Union forces began liberating the slaves in the middle of July, the confederates formally broke away from the Union. On July fourth, a general convention assembled in Fort Austin, Texas, under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln to officially start the formation of the confederacy. Although there was a battle fought at Fort Travis during this process, the free states did not join the confederacy.
The first new federal holiday since the institution of the republic was Juneteenth, a somber event. It was in honor of a group of freed slaves who, along with other African Americans, had gathered to celebrate the freeing of their masters in New Orleans. There was no longer any need for them to pay tribute to their former owners because their masters had been all free and would be forever remembered. But as a somber note, the event also marked the beginning of one of the most tragic events in American history. Many slaves were sold into slavery after the celebrations in New Orleans.
As the celebrations in New Orleans waned, General Sherman’s army entered Fort Travis to take it back from the Confederates. A cannonball was fired at the fort by General Sherman which started the fire that ultimately resulted in death of over 200 men. The next day the Union soldiers formally put the slaves on sale to the highest bidder. The price for a slave was not as valuable as the hundreds of dollars that were paid for a female slave, but it was far more than what was paid for a male slave.
Juneteenth was a time of celebration for many New Orleans residents who went to the polls in an attempt to elect a president. But while some of the black citizens of New Orleans voted for the highly anticipated presidential election, they didn’t choose Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln won the election anyway. In the years that followed, the festivities for the fourth July continued to celebrate the end of slavery. The slave trade would continue, with some African Americans working long hours on the sugar plantations in Louisiana and across the Mississippi River in Missouri.