Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an American holiday commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865. It is the oldest known celebration observing the ending of slavery in the United States. The term Juneteenth is a portmanteau word. It is a blend of two (or more) words and their meanings into one new word. The Emancipation Day holiday is celebrated in June, on the 19th of the month, which is why it is referred to as Juneteenth.
As of June 2017 the holiday is recognized in the majority of the United States and the District of Columbia. There is ongoing effort to have legislation passed to make Juneteeth a national observance in America. It originated in Galveston, Texas. The holiday exists because even though Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, many African Americans were not immediately released from slavery. This was especially true in Texas, which was under mostly Confederate control. In 1865, between June 18th and 19th, General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the emancipation of its slaves. The following year freed slaves organized the first Juneteeth celebration in Texas.
African Americans in southern states lived in slave like conditions for decades beyond the date of the Emancipation Proclamation. Many freed slaves turned to sharecropping after being released from the institution of slavery. Former slaves could provide labor but had no money and no land to farm. For many of them sharecropping became a new form of slavery. Typically former slaves that lived under the sharecropping system would find themselves in debt to farmers or landowners at the end of the year, thus making it impossible for sharecroppers to escape from the situation legally. Many families were forced to escape from sharecropping under the cover of darkness.