Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of the Scurlock family

The Civil War had been over for months. Yet slavery in Texas continued. The Emancipation Proclamation had declared two years earlier that all slaves in rebel states “henceforth shall be free…” Yet slavery in Texas continued. The Congress had approved the 13th Amendment three months earlier and sent it to the various states to ratify the abolishment of all slavery in America. Yet, slavery in Texas continued.
The United States Army (no longer simply the Union Army, for the war was over) marched into Texas with its rifles and bayonets and at Galveston, General Granger said we are here to enforce freedom. Millions of soldiers had taken arms with hundreds of thousands dead so that General Granger could assemble in Texas on June 19th, 1865. It took the most vulgar of expressions of raw power so that then slavery ended in Texas and celebrations were had.
It was more than the breaking of chains, but it was a hope and promise of a new America with a universal bond of shared values that we teach ourselves of what it is to be an American.
It did not erase the past outrages and sins. One cannot change what we had for breakfast, let alone history. But we must remember it and celebrate the goodwill and better times that was then expected to be the start of a great new era. That era is not finished. 
 The unity of the country, while costly in lives, was much simpler to accomplish than the unity of the people and the true creation of a universal American under the ideals we seek with pride. Racism, caste, class stratification, took on new forms and to the scars of the past were added new wounds as things denied our hopes, they had names like Jim Crow, Segregation, Red Lining, and a collection of systemic threads that drove divisions and allowed a hatred to fester openly as well as take on nuance in the mainstream and the shadows of our society.
Juneteenth is a Celebration for all Americans and a reminder that we must not forget the path that was pointed to on this day, nor allow us to be distracted from the promise of what it is to be an American: one people, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Views expressed of Edi Birsan, a proud American and member of a greater multi-ethnic and racial family. While tax dollars were used to bring our country to the point where we are, none were used in this article.