On June 17, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed into law the bill that established Juneteenth National Independence Day, June 19, as a legal public holiday. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and delivered General Order No. 3 announcing the end of legalized slavery in Texas. Historically, it has been a holiday celebrated by people of African descent in the United States, as well as people in Canada, Jamaica, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and other countries throughout the world. Juneteenth is also a “symbolic date” representing the African American struggle for freedom and equality, and a celebration of family and community.

Emancipation Day, Richmond, Va. [c1905]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

Although two years and six months had passed since President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, many African Americans remained enslaved in Confederate states and also in the border slave states that remained loyal to the Union. The surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865 had not impacted Texas. Many plantation owners refused to acknowledge that the war was over and refused to “release” their enslaved workers from bondage. This practice continued even after the issuance of General Order No. 3.

General Order No. 3, delivered by Major General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865 stated:

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. The freedmen are advised to remain [quietly] at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

General Orders, No. 3. Dallas Herald (Dallas, Tex.), July 01, 1865, Image 2, col. 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Serial & Government Publications Division

Many enslaved Blacks in Texas had already escaped prior to Granger’s announcement. A brigade of the 25th Army Corps, comprised of more than 1,000 African-descendant soldiers, arrived in Galveston and captured Galveston on June 5, 1865, a week before Granger’s arrival. They chased the rebel government and soldiers into Mexico. The Black soldiers of the 25th Army Corps also spread the word about freedom, and Civil War historians estimate that thousands of enslaved people escaped to freedom because of the actions of the 25th Army Corps.

The struggle for freedom and equal rights has continued, and so has the celebration of Juneteenth, as people of African descent and others commemorate Juneteenth in their homes, churches, schools, and communities. They attend church services, host parades, races, picnics, oratorical contests, musical, literary, and cultural festivals, and often visit cemeteries to reunite the freed and living with their enslaved ancestors. Since January 1, 1980, when Texas officially recognized Juneteenth as a state holidayExternal, more than 40 other states have passed legislation observing or recognizing the significance of Juneteenth. Historians have observed that Juneteenth remains significant because it is one of the earliest continuously observed holidays that African Americans established in the United States; it signifies for the African American population that America is the land of the free and that the fight for equality is ever present and ongoing.

[Uncle Billy McCrea, sitting in his yard, Jasper, Texas]. Ruby T. Lomax, photographer, [Sept 30, 1940]. Lomax Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Listen to the interviews with Uncle Billy McCrea from Jasper, Texas,(shown above) who remembers the emancipation announcement in Texas.

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Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty arrived at its permanent home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor on June 19, 1885, aboard the French frigate Isere. A gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, the 151-foot-tall statue was created to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Designed by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi and officially titled Liberty Enlightening the World, the Statue of Liberty has symbolized freedom and democracy to the nation and to the world for well over a century.

Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor. Detroit Photographic Co., 1905. Photocrom Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

Statue of Liberty. J. Stuart Blackton/Albert E. Smith, camera. United States: Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1898. The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division

Sometimes known as Lady Liberty, the statue is constructed of hand-shaped copper sheets, assembled on a framework of steel supports designed by engineers Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. For transit to America, the figure was broken down into 350 separate pieces and packed in 214 crates. The Statue of Liberty sits within the star-shaped walls of the former Fort Wood, rising to a height of 305 feet on a pedestal designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. The pedestal was built using funds raised by the American people through benefits, charity auctions, and individual donations—some as small as a few pennies each.

The Statue of Liberty faces to the east, greeting incoming ships upon their arrival while also looking back toward her birthplace in France. President Grover Cleveland dedicated the statue on October 28, 1886, before thousands of spectators. With the 1892 opening of the nearby Ellis Island Immigration Station, Bartholdi’s Liberty would welcome more than 12 million immigrants to the United States. Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The New Colossus,” originally composed in 1883 as part of the national fundraising effort, was affixed to the statue’s pedestal in 1903. Its poignant lines celebrate America’s role as a haven to peoples of the world in search of freedom:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” 1883.

Profile View of Left Side of Head. Jet Lowe, 1985. Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, Manhattan, New York, New York County, NY. Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey. Prints & Photographs Division
New Torch and Flame in Place; Workers Beginning to Dismantle Scaffolding, December 17, 1985. Jet Lowe, 1985. Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, Manhattan, New York, New York County, NY. Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey. Prints & Photographs Division

For his 1949 Broadway musical Miss Liberty, Irving Berlin, himself an immigrant from Russia, set music to Emma Lazarus’s iconic poem. It is the only song in the Irving Berlin canon for which he used someone else’s words.

The Statue of Liberty, now weathered to a vibrant copper green, has been iconic since its first conception, and continues to be recognized as a national, and international, landmark. Her image is borrowed widely: from souvenirs and postcards; to editorial cartoons, sheet musicExternal, and war bond posters; to yard art; to Hanukkah menorahs and Halloween costumes. First designated a monument in 1924 and transferred to the National Park Service’s care in 1933, the Statue of Liberty National Monument’s boundaries expanded in 1956 to include both the renamed Liberty Island and Ellis Island within a single site. Named a UNESCO World Heritage SiteExternal in 1984, the Statue of Liberty underwent a major restoration for its own centennial, in 1986.

You–Buy a Liberty bond lest I perish / C.R. Macauley. 1917. Posters: World War I Posters. Prints & Photographs Division
Federal Heating and Air Conditioning, Statue of Liberty, Federal Boulevard. John Margolies, 2004. Roadside America Photographs by John Margolies in the Library of Congress. Prints & Photographs Division

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The Marshall Plan

On June 19, 1947, the British and French foreign ministers issued a joint communiqué inviting twenty-two European nations to send representatives to Paris to participate in designing a plan for rebuilding war-torn Europe. In his Harvard University commencement address two weeks earlier, U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall called for a massive European aid package designed to stabilize the world economy and discourage the spread of communism. More than 12.4 billion dollars were transferred to Western Europe under the Economic Recovery Program known as the “Marshall Plan.” Not completely altruistic, the legislation creating the plan specified that aid dollars be spent in the U.S.

It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.

Address At Harvard University,” June 5, 1947. George C. Marshall, former U.S. Secretary of State. In The Marshall Plan and the Future of U.S.—European relations. New York: German Information Center, 1973. p8. For European Recovery: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Marshall Plan

Nearly every Western European nation participated in the recovery plan. Although inflation was a serious side effect of the program, within two years many countries had reached or exceeded pre-war levels of agricultural and industrial production. By encouraging European economic integration, the Marshall Plan fostered the creation of the European Economic Community of the 1950s—the precursor to today’s European Union.

“The Men Responsible.” Copyprint from Album: The Marshall Plan at the Mid-Mark, 1950. Averell Harriman Papers, Manuscript Division. For European Recovery: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Marshall Plan

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