America's barbecue culture is a many-splendored thing that embraces various regional styles and traditions. For African Americans, the “Juneteenth” barbecue holds a special place in community life. This annual celebration was born on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas. That day, Major General Gordon Granger, commanding officer for the district of Texas for the Union Army, read General Order No. 3, which stated: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free . . .”
The announcement arrived two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to liberate enslaved people living in the rebellious states of the Confederacy, and nearly six months after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially outlawed slavery in the entire country.
By 1866, Black communities throughout Texas commemorated the anniversary of their true freedom, a second Independence Day, with what they called “the 19th of June” or the “June 19th” celebration. By the 1910s, “Juneteenth” became the more popular nickname for this occasion, which featured any combination of speeches (many by formerly enslaved people); church services; concerts; parades; athletic games (especially baseball); and a very impressive feast featuring “red foods” such as barbecue, strawberry soda, and watermelon. Juneteenth grew so popular that it became an official Texas state holiday in 1980, and it's now gaining momentum to become a national holiday.