What is Juneteenth?

A photo of a celebration.

Col. Jennifer Reeves, 341st Missile Wing commander, is first to sign a Juneteenth display in honor of the base’s first Juneteenth celebration June 19, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. It states, “I stand together with my brothers & sisters...we, Wing 1, stand together with you… with all. For freedom, for equality. Let’s remember this day!” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tristan Day)

A photo of a celebration.

A frame of the Juneteenth flag is decorated with various signatures of Airmen and family members June 19, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Juneteeth is a yearly celebration commemorating the abolishment of slavery since June 19, 1865. (Courtesy photo by Staff Sgt. Tahlib Webb)

A photo of a celebration.

From left, Staff Sgt. Asia Reece, 341st Munitions Squadron commander’s support staff NCO in charge, and Staff Sgt. Kasie Whitfield, 341st MUNS unit training manager, pose for a photo during a Juneteenth celebration June 19, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Reece, Whitfield, along with many other Airmen, put together Malmstrom’s first Juneteenth event, with plans to introduce it as a new annual, wing-wide event. (Courtesy photo by Staff Sgt. Tahlib Webb)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- What is the significance of June 19, 1865, better known as Juneteenth, and why is it that few know the story behind this pivotal moment in African American history?

For years, African Americans have conformed to a way of life that was forced upon them.

Deceived, forcefully taken from their homeland and stripped of their rich culture - all of their history washed away and they were made to live a life of bondage.

Americans consider July 4, 1776, as Independence Day, the day the 13 colonies claimed their independence from British rule.

For many, this day symbolizes freedom and justice for all; however, not all were free. Slavery was still very active and legal in all states.

That is, until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, declaring all enslaved people in southern states were free.

Being that news traveled slowly at the time and Texas was the furthest state from the union, more than 250,000 slaves were unaware they had been freed.

On June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, General Gordon Granger led his cavalry in Galveston, Texas, gathered as many slaves as possible and made the announcement that they were free.

It was a joyous time, so much so the newly freed slaves went back to that same location of Granger’s announcement every year and celebrated.

This is why we must know the significance of Juneteenth.

We celebrate this day to honor the legacy of our ancestors, to never forget the sacrifices made and the pain we still currently endure.

We encourage all Airmen in the U.S. Air Force to celebrate Juneteenth, just as African Americans have celebrated Independence Day.
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