Jump into Juneteenth: 4 Questions Answered

By Meghan E. Gattignolo 

Juneteenth hasn’t always been a national holiday. Though June 19 is the oldest celebration date for slavery emancipation in America, it’s the youngest federal holiday. Here are some facts about June 19 that every American ought to know. 

Why Juneteenth?   

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 – the day the United States finally freed all its slaves. President Lincoln’s famous executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, did not actually free all slaves. The Proclamation (issued on January 1, 1863) only affected slaves held within the Confederacy and still in rebellion against the Union. Slaveholding states that never seceded from the Union, like Kentucky, were actually not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation. States under Union control by September 1862, like Tennessee, were technically not affected by the Proclamation either. However, once Union troops won over a Confederate state during the Civil War, one of the first actions they took was to free the slaves in the area.  

Specifically, Juneteenth celebrates the exact day in which Union troops marched into Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and to enforce the South’s emancipation of its slaves. Texas was the last Confederate state that Union troops marched into, and the last place enslaved people learned they were free. 

General Gordon Granger, The Galveston Daily News (June 21, 1865)
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

When Did Juneteenth Become a Holiday? 

Juneteenth has been celebrated continuously since 1865, primarily by members of the Black community. Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth an officially recognized, paid state holiday in 1980, and by the 21st century, most major cities celebrated Juneteenth. President Biden finally made June 19 a federal holiday in June 2021, following the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement raising nationwide awareness for the holiday’s existence. 

Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Juneteenth Celebration in Emancipation Park in Houston’s Fourth Ward, 1880
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Why Should All Americans Celebrate Juneteenth? 

Even though slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, prejudices against people who had once been enslaved would prove to be far more difficult to end. The Reconstruction-era South continued to be a challenging and dangerous place to live for recently-freed slaves.  Biased justice systems and Jim Crow laws undermined the freedom of former slaves and their descendants. A hundred years after the end of slavery, the Black community finally saw real improvements in their lives with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Even today, we are still dealing with the repercussions of an institution that ended over 150 years ago. Juneteenth reminds us about the Black community’s generations-long struggle to be seen as equal citizens in America.  

We celebrate Independence Day on July 4 to celebrate our freedom as an independent country. Juneteenth is also a celebration of independence: a celebration of freedom from slavery and the access to liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. 

How To Celebrate Juneteenth: 

This Juneteenth, Clarksville will enjoy its third annual city-wide celebrations! On Friday, June 16, you can celebrate Juneteenth with friends, family or a date at a special themed Paint N’ Sip class at the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center. Light snacks will be provided, and participants are welcome to bring a bottle of wine or other libations (no hard liquor) to sip while creating. Tickets are $35 and you can register here! 

On Saturday, June 17, the Museum will host a free Juneteenth storytelling event with professional storyteller Tammy Hall. Families can learn more about Juneteenth, and even have the opportunity to make a craft together inspired by artist Alma Thomas. Join the fun in the Museum’s Turner Auditorium on Saturday, June 17, at 10:30am.   

Other events happening throughout the community include a free Juneteenth Festival hosted by the nonprofit organization Manifest Magic: Black Girl Cooperative at The Emerald Clarksville, also on June 17. A parade will be held the same day at 10am, starting at the Burt-Cobb Recreation Center. Everyone is also welcome to the third annual Juneteenth Block Party hosted by Black Clarksville, held at the Downtown Commons from 12pm-6pm.  

Celebrate freedom for all Americans on Juneteenth! 


Juneteenth celebrations to include parade, festival in Clarksville | ClarksvilleNow.com 
13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is Passed | National Museum of African American History and Culture (si.edu) 
Emancipation Proclamation (1863) | National Archives 
About – June Nineteenth Museum (june19museum.com) 
Clarksville Juneteenth – Clarksville, TN 

Featured Photo

Photostat of handwritten Emancipation Proclamation
Abraham Lincoln, author
Library of Congress, Rare Book And Special Collections Division

Meghan E. Gattignolo is a freelance writer and longtime Clarksville, TN resident. She loves to obsess about historical subjects and annoy her family daily with unsolicited random facts. Meghan holds a History B.A. from Austin Peay State University and lives in town with her husband and two daughters. 

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