Sean Collins in Vox:
Juneteenth — a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth” — became a federal holiday just last year, but Black Americans, particularly Black Texans, have been celebrating it for generations. The first Juneteenth festivities took place in the late 19th century in Texas’s Emancipation Park, and combined political organizing with partying in a manner still seen in today’s get-out-the-vote drives and barbecues and red drinks. Originally, as with today, it was a day to remember enslaved ancestors, to rejoice for those who found liberation from forced labor, and to spend time with friends and loved ones.
Juneteenth observes the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. On that day, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, a storied Union Army officer, read General Order No. 3 aloud with 2,000 federal troops at his back, forcing Texas enslavers who had refused to free their slaves, as required by law, to finally do so, more than two years late. In granting that freedom, the United States had a major opportunity, too: to ask forgiveness for the ways it had violated its core ideals by enslaving Black Americans, and to seek redemption for that self-mutilation. Instead, the nation’s leaders let the moment pass.