Juneteenth Commemorates Important Chapter in Black History
Monday, June 19, 2023
Today marks a historic chapter in American history for Black people.
On this date in 1865, slaves in Texas learned they were free from servitude - more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
The name "Juneteenth" is a combination of the month and date when Union Army General Gordon Granger made the announcement in Galveston.
Eunice Trotter is director of the Indiana Landmarks Black Heritage Preservation Program. She said the historic date has an Indiana connection.
"Indiana's United States Colored Troops 28 went to Galveston, Texas," said Trotter. "And at gunpoint, in many cases, forced the release of African Americans."
By the 1860s, Indiana had more than 60 Black settlements.
The official name for the holiday is Juneteenth National Independence Day. It is celebrated with family-themed festivals, parades, plays, poetry readings and more.
President Joe Biden signed the bill creating the holiday into law in 2021.
Research from the National Archives says between the 1910s and 1970s, six million freed slaves and their descendants traveled to the northern, midwestern and western U.S.
They wanted to escape discriminatory "Jim Crow" laws and pursue better economic and educational opportunities.
But Trotter said many of the freed slaves in Texas did not join what is known historically as "The Great Migration."
"My understanding is a lot of those people stayed there in Galveston," said Trotter. "They did not leave and run off after freedom, because they were free to be there."
A 2021 Brookings Institute study of Census Bureau data shows in the late 1970s, the "New Great Migration" emerged.
Many young Black, college-educated people, discouraged by race riots, discrimination and jobs lost to industrialization, began returning to the South.
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