This month marks the third national observance of Juneteenth, celebrated on the 19th to mark the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by Union troops to enslaved Americans on June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Texas. Although Lincoln's Proclamation had officially taken effect two years earlier, the end of slavery came at different times in different parts of the Confederacy as the War Between The States wound down.
It wasn't until Union General Gordon Granger and his troops reached Galveston, at the farthest reaches of the former Confederacy, that Gordon announced "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free."
Texas later became the first state to officially declare the day a state holiday, in 1935; by the civil rights era, all fifty states had some kind of observance of the day. But it didn't become a federal holiday until 2021, when President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making the day what many began to label as the country's second Independence Day.
Juneteenth is particularly resonant for the Lowcountry and for Charleston, where an estimated 100,000 enslaved captives were herded from slave ships at Gadsden's Wharf. The wharf was built in 1760 by merchant and landowner Christopher Gadsden, who used enslaved labor for his vast rice plantations despite being a member of the Continental Congress and its dedication to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" which, to men of those times, did not apply to Blacks. Despite a Congressional ban on the slave trade which took effect in January of 1808, human beings continued to be bartered and sold at Gadsden's Wharf for another fifty years.
Today, the Wharf is the site of the soon-to-open International African American Museum, while a variety of Juneteenth celebrations mark the holiday all over the Charleston area, ranging from readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and the singing of traditional spirituals to music, dancing and outdoor dining. Check out Lowcountry Juneteenth Week.