Today marks the 150th anniversary of the date when the Union’s Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, at the Civil War’s conclusion, with news that African Americans were freed from slavery. In the years to come, June 19th would be condensed into “Juneteenth,” and the holiday would be celebrated in many cities across the nation.
Most black people didn’t actually enjoy much liberty, of course, despite the emancipation declaration. Instead, they were subjected to oppressive sharecropper labor laws, “black codes,” convict leasing, racial disenfranchisement, and other racist policies that prevented them from pursuing life, liberty, happiness, and other inalienable rights. What this means is that many African Americans have been celebrating this day of freedom while living in communities bound by segregation, impoverished living conditions, and environmental burdens.