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Juneteenth: The Celebration of a New Freedom in America

Today’s post was written by Billy R. Glasco, Jr., archivist at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

"Waiting for the Hour"

Beginning on January 1, 1863, Union commanders in areas throughout the South began to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrations and traditions such as Watch Night, an observance still practiced by churches with predominantly African American congregations today, began from the initial enactment of the executive order, however celebrations were scarce due to the nation being immersed in the Civil War.

General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. Eight weeks after Lee’s surrender, the last official surrender of a Confederate general was by General Edmund Kirby, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department in Galveston, Texas on June 2, 1865, officially ending the last battle of the Civil War.


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