19th of June


Juneteenth Historical Archives

House of Representatives - 104th Congress
September 17, 1996

Statement by Congresswoman Barbara Rose Collins (D-MI)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of May 12, 1995, the gentlewoman from Michigan [Miss Collins] is recognized during morning business for 5 minutes.

Miss COLLINS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill that will recognize the significance of the oldest black celebration in American history, June 19--known affectionately as `Juneteenth.' This bill would recognize Juneteenth as the day of celebrating the end of slavery in the United States and as the true day of independence for African-Americans in this country.

Juneteenth is the traditional celebration of the day on which the last slaves in America were freed. Although slavery was officially abolished in 1863, news of freedom did not spread to all slaves for another 2 1/2 years--June 19, 1865. On that day, U.S. General Gordon Granger, along with a regiment of Union Army soldiers, rode into Galveston, TX, and announced that the State's 200,000 slaves were free. Vowing to never forget the date, the former slaves coined a nickname for their cause of celebration--a blend of the words `June' and `nineteenth.'

June 19, 1865, has been traditionally associated with the end of slavery in the Southwest. However, because of the importance of the holiday, it did not take long for Juneteenth celebrations to spread beyond the States in the Southwest and into other parts of the country. Today, due in large part to the hard work and dedication of individuals, like Lula Briggs Galloway and Dr. Ronald Meyer of the National Association of Juneteenth lineage, who have fought hard to revive and preserve the Juneteenth celebration, the holiday is celebrated by several million blacks and whites in more than 130 cities across the United States and Canada. In Texas and Oklahoma, Juneteenth is an official State holiday.

As we prepare to revitalize the observance of Juneteenth as the true day of independence for African-Americans, it is important that we acknowledge the historical as well as political significance of the celebration. We must acknowledge, for example, that while the slaves of Texas had cause to celebrate the news of their freedom on June 19, 1865, the truth is that at the time of General Granger's historical pronouncement, the slaves were already legally free. This is because the Emancipation Proclamation had become effective nearly 2 1/2 years earlier--on January 1, 1863.

From a political standpoint, therefore, Juneteenth is significant because it exemplifies how harsh and cruel the consequences can be when a breakdown in communication occurs between the Government and the American people. Yes, Mr. Speaker, the dehumanizing and degrading conditions of slavery were unnecessarily prolonged for hundreds of thousands of black men, women, and children, because our American Government failed to communicate the truth.

As Juneteenth celebrations continue to spread, so does a greater appreciation of African-American history. We must revive and preserve Juneteenth not only as the end of a painful chapter in American history--but also as a reminder of the importance of preserving the lines of communication between the powerful and powerless in our society.

Juneteenth allows us to look back on the past with an increased awareness and heightened respect for the strength of the African-American men, women, and children, who endured unspeakable cruelties in bondage. Out of respect to our ancestors, upon whose blood, sweat, and tears, this great Nation was built, the bill I introduce today acknowledges that African-Americans in this country are not truly free, until the last of us are free.

The bill I introduce today, Mr. Speaker, recognizes June 19, 1865, as a day of celebrating the end of slavery in America and as the true day of independence for African-Americans in this country.

I ask all of my colleagues to cosponsor this bill.


Recognizing the end of slavery in the United States, and the true day of independence for African-Americans. (Introduced in House)

HJ 195 IH


2d Session

H. J. RES. 195

Recognizing the end of slavery in the United States, and the true day of independence for African-Americans.


September 17, 1996

Miss COLLINS of Michigan (for herself, Mr. BARRETT of Wisconsin, Mrs. CLAYTON, Mr. FILNER, Mr. FRAZER, Mr. PETE GEREN of Texas, Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas, Mr. HASTINGS of Florida, Mr. BROWN of Ohio, Mrs. SCHROEDER, Ms. WATERS, Mr. PAYNE of New Jersey, Ms. BROWN of Florida, Mr. THOMPSON, Mr. JEFFERSON, Ms. NORTON, and Mrs. MEEK of Florida) introduced the following joint resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight



Recognizing the end of slavery in the United States, and the true day of independence for African-Americans.

Whereas `Juneteenth' celebrations have been held informally for over 130 years to commemorate the strong survival instincts of African-Americans who were first brought to this country stacked in the bottoms of slave ships during a month-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean known as the `Middle Passage';

Whereas the Civil War was fueled by the economic and social divide caused by slavery;

Whereas on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the enforcement thereof occurred only in those Confederate States under the control of the Union Army;

Whereas on January 31, 1863, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery throughout the United States and its territories;

Whereas on April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered on behalf of the Confederate States at Appomattox, the Civil War was nonetheless prolonged in the Southwest;

Whereas news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached each State at different times;

Whereas the Emancipation Proclamation was not enforced in the Southwest until June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, to present and read General Order No. 3;

Whereas former slaves in the Southwest began celebrating the end of slavery and recognized `Juneteenth Independence Day'; and

Whereas `Juneteenth' allows us to look back on the past with an increased appreciation for the strength of the men, women, and children who for generations endured unspeakable cruelties in bondage: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the end of slavery in the United States should be celebrated and recognized.