Episode 93: The Historical Legacy Of Juneteenth

Voter Suppression and Depression

Show Panelist

Special Guest Carlos and Anita Spencer

Dr. Rogers Cain and Ms. Jocelyn Turner – Co-Host



Senses of Freedom: Exploring the Tastes, Sounds and Experiences of an African American Celebration

Join the museum’s Juneteenth celebration – during the entire month of June – and embrace the rich history of Freedom Day each week.

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Freedmen's Bureau Records

The First Juneteenth

A contraband school, circa 1860-1865.

A Freedom Deferred

A group of African American men eating a meal at a table outside

Tastes of Resilience

Tidal Music X NMAAHC Juneteenth 2023 Playlist

Sounds of Freedom

Juneteenth Today

Social Media Toolkit

Digital Toolkit

Reading List

image of a fixture in the museum store containing NMAAHC Juneteenth Merchandise

Commemorative Collection

Outdoor celebration w/ Juneteenth logo

Community Day

The First Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, nearly two years after President Abraham Lincoln emancipated enslaved Africans in America, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas with news of freedom. More than 250,000 African Americans embraced freedom by executive decree in what became known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day. With the principles of self-determination, citizenship, and democracy magnifying their hopes and dreams, those Texans held fast to the promise of true liberty for all.


“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”Gordon Granger

Union General, June 19, 1865

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Emancipation Day celebration, June 19, 1900 held in "East Woods" on East 24th Street in Austin.

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The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth

Juneteenth is an often overlooked event in our nation’s history. On June 19, 1865, Union troops freed enslaved African Americans in Galveston Bay and across Texas some two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

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What is Juneteenth?

In this curatorial discussion, museum experts examine the historical significance of the holiday and how it came to be.

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A black and white photo of a group of African Americans in the 1910s attending a family reuinion

The Historical Legacy of Black Family Reunions

The coming of summer heralds cook-outs, line dancing, and brightly colored t-shirts iconic of Black family reunions.

A Freedom Deferred

With the end of slavery, searching for family members who had been separated or sold away became the focus of many formerly enslaved individuals. The number of years of separation did not deter people from hoping to reunite with lost loved ones. Newspaper advertisements, letters and word of mouth were all employed as part of the search. The hope was that a positive response might lead to a reunion with family members.    

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carte-de-viste depicting the Fisk University Jubilee Singers with all nine members present. On the back, the photo reads "American Missionary Association. Jubilee Singers, Fisk University, Nashville, TN."

Emancipation and Educating the Newly Freed

For the nearly four million newly freed, education was a crucial first step to becoming self-sufficient. Between 1861 and 1900, more than 90 institutions of higher education were founded for African Americans.

Read Moreabout Emancipation and Educating the Newly Freed

Publishers throughout the North responded to a demand for copies of Lincoln’s proclamation and produced numerous decorative versions, including this engraving by R. A. Dimmick in 1864. 
Publishers throughout the North responded to a demand for copies of Lincoln’s proclamation and produced numerous decorative versions, including this engraving by R. A. Dimmick in 1864. 

After the Civil War, African Americans worked tirelessly to reconnect with family and loved ones separated under slavery. The Freedmen’s Bureau was a useful tool, aiding in the work that Black communities were already doing to reunite families.

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a Freedmen's Bureau document.

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Freedmen’s Bureau Search Portal

The Freedmen’s Bureau Search Portal provides unprecedented opportunities for family historians and genealogists to search for their ancestors and for scholars to research a variety of topics related to slavery and Reconstruction in the Freedmen’s Bureau records.

Read Moreabout Freedmen’s Bureau Search Portal

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Smithsonian Transcription Center

The Smithsonian Transcription Center is a pan-Smithsonian website that allows digital volunteers, or “volunpeers,” from around the world to transcribe documents, photograph captions, field books, and other materials online.

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Office of Sub Asst. Comr. Bur. R.F. & A.L.
sixth Sub District of Texas
Columbus Tex June 12th 1867.

Lieut. J.T. Kirkman U.S.A.
Supt. of Education
Bur. R.F. & A.L.
Galveston Tex


The freedpeople of this County are to celebrate the anniversary of their Emancipation
on Saturday June 24th. The schools of this District 
will form a feature of the day’s enjoyment in making 
short addresses + singing songs and hymns. It has been suggested that Prizes be 
distributed on that day to those of the children 
who have received the highest averages for good conduct and application to study.

Will the Bureau furnish these say 10 or 15 handsome Bibles and a 
few other good Books for the occasion?

Very Respectfully
Your Obd’t Servt
Enon M. Harris
S.A. Comr.

Records of the Superintendent of Education for the State of Texas Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1870, Letters Received, Unregistered Letters Received

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