The Original Juneteenth Order Resurfaces

National Archives locates the 1865 document
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2020 10:00 AM CDT
155 Years Ago Came the Message: 'All Slaves Are Free'
In this June 19, 2018, file photo, Zebiyan Fields, 11, at center, drums alongside more than 20 kids at the front of the Juneteenth parade in Flint, Mich.   (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

Today is Juneteenth, and this year marks 155 years to the day since 2,000 Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing news that slavery had been abolished some two years earlier. There hadn't been enough Union troops in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation before that point, according to

  • The National Archives on Thursday apparently unearthed the original military order, handwritten by a general's aide on June 19, 1865, informing Texans that "all slaves are free," per the Washington Post. It shares photos. The order was located in a formal order book kept in the Archives' Washington HQ.
  • Celebrations generally include music, dancing, storytelling, cookouts, and community, though special attention will be paid to physical distancing and hand-washing this year, per NPR and NBC News. There's also the raising of the Juneteenth flag, which is full of symbols. CNN decodes them.
  • Some 46 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday or observance. Virginia followed some other states in making it a paid holiday this year. In New York, it's now a paid holiday for state employees. Employees at companies including Twitter, the NFL, Nike, JCPenney, Target, Uber and Lyft will also have the day off, per CNN.

  • This comes amid a push to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday. Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson and GOP Sen. John Cornyn, both of Texas, have each said they will introduce legislation recognizing June 19 as a federal holiday. If approved by Congress, it would be the first established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983, per NPR.
  • "Many whites don't know [about Juneteenth]" because it isn't taught in schools, Gwen Ragsdale, executive director of Philadelphia's Lest We Forget Slavery Museum, tells NPR. Historians argue we are failing our children in failing to teach Black historical events that don't match with the idea of a progressive history of the US. "In many ways we wouldn't have a Black Lives Matter movement if Black lives mattered in the classroom," LaGarrett King, an associate professor at the University of Missouri, tells NBC News.
  • First Lady Melania Trump released a video of her reading Angela Johnson's children's book All Different Now, telling of the first Juneteenth, in honor of the holiday. "My hope for everyone today is that by understanding and reflecting upon even the worst part of our country's past, we can commit to lifting each other up and celebrating the freedom we all deserve," she says.
  • At USA Today, Rev. Al Sharpton writes of "a long journey ahead until all of our lives are valued equally; until we have the oppressive chokehold of racism removed from our necks; until we are all viewed as equal under the law; and until we all have decent housing, education, jobs, health care and the ability to achieve that promised American dream. Then and only then will we be fully unshackled from the chains of oppressive discrimination."
(More Juneteenth stories.)

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