On "Freedom's Eve," Watch Night services were held on the eve of January 1, 1863. Enslaved and free African Americans gathered nationwide, anticipating news of the Emancipation Proclamation. At midnight, prayers were answered as President Lincoln declared all enslaved individuals in Confederate States legally free. Union soldiers, including many black soldiers, spread the news by reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation in southern plantations and cities. However, some Confederate territories, like Texas, experienced delayed freedom. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, announcing the freedom of over 250,000 enslaved black people by executive decree. This day became known as "Juneteenth" and serve as both a celebration of freedom and a symbol of resistance. The Thirteenth Amendment was later ratified on December 6, 1865, abolishing slavery throughout the entirety of the United States. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 and festivities celebrate Black history, honor Black soldiers and workers, and foster a cultural legacy for Black Americans.
Williams & Connolly is proud to celebrate Juneteenth, our country’s second Independence Day. The historical legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times.