History Lesson: What Is Juneteenth & What Does It Celebrate?

juneteenth

You read it, you hear it... but you might not know the history behind it. What is Juneteenth?

It is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

As we know it, June 19th 1865, was the day word reached the enslaved in Galveston, Texas that their emancipation had been made formal.

The Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Awareness and appreciation for Juneteenth is growing exponentially across the U.S. and beyond, as people of all races and ethnicities recognize the wonderful opportunity to come together in appreciation, reconciliation and commemoration.

Many large organizations are recognizing Juneteenth more and more, including Target.

“We recognize that the racial trauma the country is experiencing now is not new, but throughout recent weeks there has been a sense that this time is, and has to be, different,” says Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO, Target. “Juneteenth takes on additional significance in this moment. Moving now to recognize it on an annual basis—as a day to celebrate, further educate ourselves or connect with our communities—is one more important action Target can take as a company to help the country live up to the ideal of moving forward in a new way.”       

While all stores and distribution centers will remain open, hourly team members who work on June 19 will be paid time and a half. All eligible Target team members have the option to take the day off with full pay. Headquarters offices will be closed in observance.

The JUNETEENTH.com website was formally launched in 1996 to provide a channel in which to connect all who share the vision of this celebration.

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