Juneteenth:  Marking a Monumental Moment in History

June 18, 2024
John Hairston
John Hairston

On June 19, 1865, shortly after the last Civil War battle, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to reiterate and reinforce an end to all slavery in the United States. His troops carried with them Executive Order No. 3, which clearly and directly declared that all enslaved people in all states were free.

Juneteenth 2024-1The decree came almost two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation officially abolished slavery.

Over the past 160 years, people have referred to that momentous Monday in American history by many names: Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Cel-Liberation, Second Independence Day, and Emancipation Day.

Today, we commemorate that important day annually as Juneteenth. Regardless of what we call June 19, though, the historical, social, and cultural implications of that date for our Nation remain profound.

Honoring an Historic Moment

Many early Juneteenth celebrations happened at local churches. Now, at churches, parks, and public locales across the country, communities mark the occasion with programs, festivals, and fairs featuring historical presentations, concerts with traditional songs, cultural displays, and recitations of stories, poems, and books by African American writers. Many people also choose Juneteenth to gather with loved ones and friends for family reunions, picnics, and backyard parties.

Juneteenth observances waned in the early 20th century because of economic and social conditions around the country. By the 1960s, the civil rights movement gained momentum; and Juneteenth events re-emerged. President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in 2021 to establish Juneteenth as an official federal holiday — the first since President Ronald Reagan approved Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as a federal holiday in 1983.

June 19 is much more than a day off from work, though. Juneteenth should be a day that reminds all of us of the indisputable basic human liberties every United States citizen should enjoy, freedoms anchored in timeless ideals of what is right, fair, and good.

Celebrating and Educating

Juneteenth not only preserves the story of how slavery finally ended in America but also recognizes the resilience and achievements of Black Americans since emancipation.

Generationally, the day means different things to different people. For us as a United States, however, Juneteenth offers a designated date to unite in expanding our minds and our hearts to understand further the real meaning and responsibilities of living in and sustaining a truly free country.

Juneteenth also constitutes a time to remember, remind, and reaffirm, to encourage and share a collective commitment to the fundamental principles — the core values — on which independence for all Americans is based.

We at Hancock Whitney join in hailing this historic moment in history and encourage people and communities to join in carrying the significance of this one date into everyday life and action. As our communities come together to celebrate Juneteenth, we hope you and those you care about most find ways to learn and share more about how this date ties to and helps carry on the history and cultures unique to our intricate American make-up.

We each have our own story. When we can create and embrace opportunities to learn, know, and respect individual and group narratives, our collective experience becomes stronger and better.