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Juneteenth: The Celebration of a New Freedom in America

Written by Billy R. Glasco, Jr., archivist at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

To understand Juneteenth’s significance, one must understand how geography, military occupation, timing, and the resilience of a proud people solidified June 19, 1865 as the date that symbolizes freedom for African Americans. The National Archives is the home of General Order No. 3 (NAID 182778372), the document whose date of issue gave this celebration and holiday its name.

When the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order that ended slavery in states in rebellion againist the Union, was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, the Union Army had begun to heavily occupy several Confederate states. By this time, Texas was still geographically isolated in contrast to other Confederate states from military campaigns and Union occupation. These factors were ideal for slaveholders who began to move to Texas from other southern states to avoid the emancipation order. Being secluded from the war and having a low presence of Union troops also made it easier for slaveholders to conceal the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation from some 250,000 enslaved people. Source: National Archives


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