Professor Stephen Kantrowitz Tells the History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth flag flying over the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison Photo by Kolin Goldschmidt
Juneteenth flag flying over the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. Photo by Kolin Goldschmidt.

Today is Juneteenth, a day that commemorates an important moment in U.S. history – the liberation of nearly 200,000 enslaved Texans in 1865. Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 pronounced freedom to all enslaved people in areas still under Confederate rule, by 1865 Texas still remained very much a slave state in practice. Juneteenth celebrates the official proclamation of freedom for the enslaved in Texas on June 19th, 1865.

Professor Stephen Kantrowitz writes, “It recognizes a rare and powerful moment when freedom came to hundreds of thousands in a matter of days, a moment that Christian ex-slaves understood as the Bible’s promised Jubilee. In the years to come, Juneteenth celebrations became ways for Black communities to assert themselves as free and equal citizens, to honor military veterans, and to draw connections between their struggles and those of their ancestors. Long before the phrase became a rallying cry, Juneteenth became an occasion to affirm that Black Lives Matter.”

See “The History of Juneteenth” by Stephen D. Kantrowitz