As June arrived in 1865, the Civil War was over. It was more than two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and six months after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially outlawed slavery. Still, in Texas, slaves were not yet free.
U.S. Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in the state, one of the country's most remote areas, to enact General Order No. 3. The order, which came along with 2,000 Union Troops, required Texas to release all of its 250,000 enslaved people.
Juneteenth is a celebration of that day, and more than 40 states officially recognize Juneteenth as a state observance.
Although it is a celebration, the date is a reminder of everything that led to it and the painful history that continues in our country. After General Order No. 3 was enacted, the newly freed people celebrated. Then, they were beaten for doing so.
“It’s important to know the entire history of the U.S., not just a certain part of it,” says Ken Sprague, Jr., U.S. history teacher at Atlanta’s Marietta High School.
Sprague and his colleagues are developing an ethnic studies curriculum that will cover the history of immigration, civil rights and other subjects from the perspectives of marginalized people.
He says that’s especially important in his majority-minority district. Now more than ever, he says, with several state legislatures considering bills to limit the way race is taught in the classroom.
“We need to understand how what’s happened in the past leads up to how we see things in today’s world,” says Sprague. Here are some resources for teaching about Juneteenth, our nation’s second independence day.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture
The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth is an article with photographs from the Smithsonian that provides context for Juneteenth. It covers the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment and Reconstruction.