06/21/2010 03:53 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Celebrating Emancipation on Juneteenth (VIDEO)

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger informed slaves in the area from the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston, Texas, that they were free. Lincoln had officially issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it had taken two more years of Union victories to end the war and for this news to reach slaves in remote sections of the country. According to folk traditions, many of the newly freed slaves celebrated the news with ecstasy. Many of them began to travel to other states in search of family members who had been separated from them by slave sales.

The announcement was met with joy and celebration. And an American tradition -- celebrating freedom on "Juneteenth" -- began.

Watch my "Don't Know Much About Minute" video on the Juneteenth holiday here:

That spontaneous celebration -- commonly called Juneteenth -- became prominent in many African-American communities, but never gained any official recognition. Recently it has been recognized by several states as a day celebrating emancipation. There is a movement to gain national recognition of Juneteenth as a way of marking the end of slavery in America.

Here is a link to the National Archives site about the Emancipation Proclamation, formally announced by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

Click here for a previous post with more of the history of Juneteenth.