From its inception until today’s modern movement, each Juneteenth celebration serves as an opportunity to reflect on memories of that great day in June 1865. The festivities and food are intended to bring all people together and create a sense of community that transcends racial and social barriers.
America is a multicultural, multi-ethnic nation striving to build communities where all people are respected equally, without regard to the color of their skin or the texture of their hair. Although we have not reached that goal yet, I believe it is the dream, desire, and prayer of the masses that one day we will. Until then we will continue to celebrate the progress that has been made. Juneteenth is a celebration of that progress. On paper it “officially” marked the end of a war that was based solely on servitude and lack of any and all freedoms.
Freedom is the power to act, speak, or think without restraints. On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation announced the end of slavery, and thereby proclaimed freedom for all African American’s in the United States. Unfortunately, Lincoln’s new Executive Order had little effect on rebellious states like Texas. It wasn’t until two and a half year’s later, on June 19, 1865, that Union troops were led into Galveston Texas by Major General Gordon Granger. Granger and his regiment overpowered the shrewd tactician, General Lee and overcame the resistance. General Granger’s first order of business was to read General Order Number 3 which began with these prolific words: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” This momentous event would later become recognized as “Juneteenth”. The term was coined by blending June and nineteenth, the historic month and day of General Granger’s arrival and announcement in Texas.
Over the years, Juneteenth has grown with more participation and has become the oldest known holiday commemorating the end of slavery. As of June 2011, 41 states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or state holiday observance. Junteenth celebrations also include a variety of activities that highlight American heritage, such as the playing of cards for the adults, numerous out door games for the children, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions or park parties.
This article was first published to Black Voice News in 2012.