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Juneteenth: An American celebration

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, we recognize an important day in our nation’s history; one that has not received the attention it deserves in the past but is, nonetheless, an important historical marker. Today, of course, is Juneteenth.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day, is an annual holiday celebrated on June 19. It commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. More specifically, it recognizes June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger, along with a unit of Union soldiers, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that all enslaved people were now free.

The order, read by General Granger on that day, read as follows: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, ‘all slaves are free.’

This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor."

Junteenth - Freedom Day - June 19, 1875

This event marks the last group of enslaved Africans and African Americans to receive the news that they had been freed. The order sparked jubilation among the now former slaves in Texas and resulted in generations of celebration since.

Although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it only applied to states that had seceded from the Union, and it could not be enforced everywhere until the Civil War ended in 1865. Slavery wasn't abolished all over America until the 13th amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.

As an agency, we recognize that African Americans have been involved in forestry and discovery since the beginning. African Americans have a rich heritage of knowing the woods and using them. Especially after the Civil War, they often translated that knowledge into personal gain, either by moving out West and using the resources there or by managing the woods back East. When professional forestry took root around 1900, African Americans were involved; it’s said that the first African American professional forester was Ralph Brock, who graduated from a forestry academy in Pennsylvania in 1906. During World War II, African Americans made up the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, which helped pioneer smokejumping. From the late 19th century into the 1960s, African Americans made up a quarter of the entire forest products industry. Today, our agency is committed to our value of diversity—diversity of perspectives from current employees, as well as diversity and inclusion outreach programs—and to better reflecting the changing face of America.

Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. Since then, 47 states and D.C. have marked it as a state holiday or observance. There is no one way to celebrate, as different people around the world celebrate in different ways. Some people take a solemn approach to celebrating Juneteenth, while others prefer to celebrate by spending time with friends and family.

However you celebrate, we ask you take time to acknowledge the importance of this day.

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