Happy Juneteenth weekend!  Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration in the nation and signifies the end of slavery in the United States. 

Emancipation Proclamation (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Emancipation Proclamation (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

The President Lincoln ordered the end of slavery by signing the Emacipation Proclimation, the heinous crime against humanity didn't end in the South.  As slaves across the country got word that they were free, slaves in Galveston Island, TX were the last to know.  The Juneteenth celebration began in 1865 in Galveston, Texas to observe the African American Emancipation Day and has remained a celebratory day ever since.

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 on the small island.  In spite of the good news, life for an African Americans in this country especially the South wasn't easy.   Free or not.  Today, as a nation we still have a long way to go when it comes to prejudice and bigotry.  But we're getting there.

Happy Juneteenth!

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