A lot of people have heard of it, but really don’t know what or why it’s celebrated. June 19th A.K.A. Juneteenth. FYI, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
The Juneteenth celebration began in 1865 in Galveston, Texas to observe the African American Emancipation Day and remained a celebratory day ever since through the United States and beyond. In an excerpt from the website Junteenth.com
Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long over due. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.
Led by Major General Gordon Granger, it was in 1865 that he and his Union soldiers told the slaves on Galveston Island that they were free. They were the last slaves to get the news. In fact, the news got to them two and a half years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law on January 1st 1863.
Sadly, Union soldiers were met with great resistance in trying to get word to slaves that they had been freed. Speaking of which, the Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, do to the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally able to overcome the resistance.
Once he broke through, one of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
As you can imagine the news brought about pure jubilation for slaves, but for those used to the way of the old South….straight up shock. Inspite of the good news, life for an African American in this country expecially the South wasn’t easy. The sad fact is, even 300 years later as a nation we still to this day can’t seem to rid our country of the “mental disease” called rasicm.
In spit of the fact that we still have a long way to go, it has most definitely gotten better. That being said the celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and has grown through the participation from descendants of slaves. The Juneteenth celebration is a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering family members to celebrate freedom. So, once again I wish you all a Happy Juneteenth.