Juneteenth commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that became effective January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in the Confederate States were free as of that date. However, since the Confederate States were in rebellion and the United States government had no ability to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, freedom for slaves did not come until the end of the Civil War.

For all practical purposes, the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, when General Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of Confederate forces at Appomattox, Virginia. As Union forces then moved into the Confederate States, they enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and proclaimed freedom for slaves.

Texas was the last Confederate State occupied by Union forces. On June 19, 1865, Union troops under the command of General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas. General Granger announced that the Civil War had ended and that all slaves were free in accordance with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

The day received its name by combining June and 19, and was originally celebrated by praying and bringing families together.

I ask our entire NCIA family to find time tomorrow to reflect on this significant day and pray for peace and social justice. With the recent events in our state and in our world over the past several weeks, celebrating Juneteenth gives our entire community a chance to reflect on how far we have come, but we must also recognize how far there still is to go.