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University Of Pittsburgh History Professor Explains Importance Of Juneteenth

PITTSBURGH (KKDA) -- Today is Juneteenth, a special day for years for Black people that is now getting broader recognition.

So what exactly does Juneteenth commemorate?

It happened on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, at the end of the Civil War.

Union General Gordon Granger and his troops entered the city and issued an order.

"Union General Granger arrives in Galveston, Texas," says historian Alaina Roberts, "and read General Order Number 3, which informed enslaved people they were free and informed their owners that they had to stop forcibly holding them in bondage."

That was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln's executive order freeing slaves in Confederate states in rebellion, an order ignored in Texas until Union troops arrived at the end of the War.

WATCH: KDKA's Jon Delano Has More With Alaina Roberts

"Juneteenth is important because it really represents the use of federal force to enforce Black freedom," Roberts, a history professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told KDKA's Jon Delano on Friday.

Roberts says over the years, Juneteenth has grown in significance beyond an event in Texas.

"Juneteenth, as I said, has a specific context, but it's really grown to represent more than that," Roberts said. "It's grown to represent the freedom of enslaved people all across the United States. Every enslaved person experienced freedom differently. Emancipation happened differently in every town, every city, every state."

Pennsylvania began gradual abolition in 1780, but it took the 13th Amendment to the Constitution adopted in December 1865 — after Juneteenth — for slavery to be abolished throughout the nation.

As Roberts noted, Juneteenth has come to represent all dates of freedom, which is why some want it to be an official holiday and day off from work.

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