AMU Editor's Pick Lifestyle Military Original

Juneteenth: The Unsung Day of African-American Independence

By Dr. Larry D. Parker, Jr.
Program Director, Transportation and Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management, American Military University

As the end of June draws near, many individuals begin to think of celebrating Independence Day. Traditionally, the date of independence celebrated by most individuals in the United States is July 4.

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Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the birth of a new nation. Then-Congressman John Adams wrote to his wife that this holiday should be one of “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

It is truly a great day and one that all Americans can appreciate as part of our country’s foundation. We live in a country with the promise of freedom and liberty for a melting pot of diverse people. For that same freedom, many of us served in the United States armed forces and made sacrifices to protect our country over the centuries.

Not All US Cultures Have Been Able to Truly Celebrate Independence Day

But with this awareness and acknowledgment of diverse cultures, not all Americans could share in the celebration of independence. Although there were some free African-Americans in the Colonial era, the colonial census numbers reported that approximately 500,000 of the U.S. population were enslaved blacks. The census numbers over the following years may be inaccurate, due to the adherence to the three-fifths compromise of only counting a black person as three-fifths of a man.

Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

It would be almost 87 years after July 4, 1776 that African-Americans could celebrate their independence by way of emancipation. On January 1, 1863, former president Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order called the Emancipation Proclamation. He stated that “all persons held as slaves within said designated states and part of states are henceforward and forever shall be free.” Due to the cultural climate and the Civil War, there were many African-Americans who didn’t know of the proclamation of freedom for another two years.

The Birth of Juneteenth

It wasn’t until 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, that the Emancipation Proclamation was fully exercised within the border states. On June 19, 1865, Granger announced good news for African-Americans. That day would then mark the realization of their long-overdue right for freedom as acknowledged by the government.

That’s why it’s called Juneteenth, short for June 19. It is a historical day celebrated for many in the African-American communities in the United States.

The Importance of Knowing the History of Juneteenth

I recommend you research the history of Juneteenth and discover additional details for yourself; as the Civil War still raged on, it would take 2.5 years for the south to receive official word of the proclamation. Nonetheless, Juneteenth is a special commemoration day. It is considered the recognition of black independence and the end of slavery.

For many African-Americans, Juneteenth is not a replacement of the traditional July 4 Independence Day but an important addition to it. African-American history should be preserved and never forgotten. Transgressions against any people should be remembered, so that we learn and never allow them to be repeated. Juneteenth is marked by the acknowledgment of a people overcoming past hardships, but still celebrating and rejoicing.

For more information on the Juneteenth holiday, check out

About the Author

Dr. Larry D. Parker, Jr., currently serves as the Program Director of Transportation and Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management with the School of Business at American Military University. He serves as an adjunct faculty for various universities around the world. Dr. Parker is a native of Temple, Texas, a certified Inspector General by the Association of Inspector Generals, and a proud member of professional organizations advancing knowledge and professionalism, such as the Association of Supply Chain Management and the National Naval Officers Association. 

Dr. Parker is a published author, inspirational speaker, consummate entrepreneur, and consultant who speaks worldwide on diversity, inclusion, and leadership. He holds a Ph.D. in organization and management from Capella University, an MBA from Liberty University, and a B.A. in history from Wittenberg University. Dr. Parker has a long history of passion and interest in local communities and is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

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