What a strange sounding name.
It’s a contraction of June and nineteenth—the day that Major General Gordon Granger was given command of the District of Texas. The Civil War was now over as of 9 May 1865. His first action was to read to the people of Texas his General Order Number Three which began with:
The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection therefore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.
Surprisingly [Satire warning] the slaveholders had either forgotten or had not yet gotten around to letting their slaves know they were—and had been—free for the previous five weeks. Ooops!
General Granger’s reading of his order fixed that.
The so-called “peculiar institution” of slavery was no more. The previously free labor from the slaves was gone, even though they could still be kept down through sharecropping and other means. Likewise, the use of slaves as breeding stock and the sale of their offspring was also gone.
For years the Jim Crow laws were intended to keep Black Americans subservient and it has taken the better part of two centuries to make any substantial progress. Nevertheless, for Black Americans, Juneteenth is seen as their independence day, and rightly so.
Author’s Note: With the current political efforts to turn the United States into a banana republic, it is more difficult to write. I make no promises as to how I will do in the future.