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A Message from our President & CEO: Commemorating Juneteenth


This weekend, Historic Annapolis is delighted to sponsor the third annual Annapolis Juneteenth Celebration, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. I hope you will join HA and the entire Annapolis community at the celebrations this weekend, whether you dance at the gala, march in the parade, participate in the festival (be sure to visit the HA booth!), or visit our museum sites through the weekend and on Monday, which is the official federal holiday.

Different communities of enslaved Black individuals experienced emancipation at different times and through different means during the Civil War era. Freedom didn’t become a reality for everyone, everywhere, all at once. Congress freed enslaved African Americans in the District of Columbia in 1862. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, but it only applied to states that had seceded from the Union and, practically speaking, couldn’t be enforced in areas still under Confederate military control.

In Annapolis, the capital of a slaveholding border state that remained in the Union, emancipation officially occurred on November 1, 1864. A new state constitution that won narrow approval on the strength of absentee votes cast by Maryland soldiers fighting for the Union made this possible. After the end of the Civil War, the December 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery nationwide.

Juneteenth recalls historic events on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas. On that day, a little more than two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender in Virginia, Major General Gordon Granger of the U.S. Army informed the people of Texas that “all slaves are free,” and that this meant “an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.” Granger’s order set off joyous celebrations by the newly liberated people of Galveston.

Annual emancipation commemorations spread to other Black communities throughout the country in later years. Texas made Juneteenth a state holiday in 1980, and President Biden signed the congressional act making it a federal holiday in 2021.

Juneteenth is an opportunity for all of us to renew our commitment to the pursuit of liberty and justice, and to honor the diversity of our whole community. You can find more details about this weekend’s offerings on our calendar of events and the Annapolis Juneteeth Celebration website. See you there!