History of Juneteenth

Juneteenth represents the day, June 19, 1865, that enslaved Africans in Texas finally learned of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Prior to this day, news of the Proclamation had not reached Texas. It has been suggested that this was because of the lack of Union troops to enforce the order, or because enslavers withheld the information to continue to benefit from the stolen labor, or as a result of several other factors. Whatever the reasons, when General Gordon Granger finally reached Texas and shared General Order Number 3 which proclaimed that all slaves were now free, many former slaves responded with both excitement about their freedom and uncertainty about what their next move should be. Some freemen chose to stay on with their former enslavers, while many others left the plantations to search for family members and opportunities in surrounding Southern states and the North. 


While the celebration of Juneteenth was initially largely confined to the state of Texas, the observance of June 19th as a holiday eventually spread throughout the Black community in the United States and even around the world. The observance of Juneteenth declined somewhat in the early 1900's due to the growth of classroom textbook education in place of traditional home and family-taught practices. In addition, the Great Depression forced many off of the land to cities in search of employment where it was more difficult to get the day off to celebrate the holiday. However, the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's helped create a resurgence in Juneteenth celebrations. As many Black people were struggling for rights and seeking ways to lean on the examples of their ancestors, the observance of this holiday grew. Now, forty-five states observe Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday, and many large institutions, such as the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum, sponsor Juneteenth activities.


Juneteenth celebrations often include barbecuing, playing games, and fellowship, but a focus on education and self-improvement is also very important in the observance of this day. This combination of activities - entertainment and enlightenment - is the foundation for our Juneteenth celebration as a day to honor those who came before us and look to their struggles and achievements as a road-map for our own, while also strengthening the ties that bind us all together as "Ocean City Family."