Happy Juneteenth! For those who don't know, Juneteenth commemorates the June 19, 1865 date that slaves in Galveston, Texas were informed of the Emancipation Proclamation by Union General Gordon Granger, who read these words from Gen. Order No. 3:
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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
In other words, two years after its issuance, the slaves of Texas learned of their freedom. That's worth celebrating, especially if you're a descendant of those slaves.
I had originally planned to do more of a scholarly type post in commemoration of Juneteenth, but time precludes me from doing so at this exact moment. If that's more your thing, you can read my entry from last year; Know Your History, (And Their's Too). Instead, here's a few thoughts on Juneteenth in general, and it's place in our history.
I have a couple of friends who always ask me, "Why should we celebrate people being late?" The implication being that because it took two years for the news to reach Texas, the slaves themselves were somehow negligent for not knowing that they were free. I always answer that "hey, there was a war going on, and they weren't exactly living in the internet age of instant communications." Besides, the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, itself didn't free many slaves due to the fact that it originally applied only to those states in a state of rebellion against the Union, i.e. those not under Union control. It did however lay the legal foundation for slavery's abolition after the arrival of the Union army in those areas.
Juneteenth is a holiday here in Texas, and is celebrated unofficially all around the country. It's the only acknowledgment on the holiday schedule that recognizes this pivotal event in our history. Yet it's celebrated primarily by Blacks. I understand that, we were the direct beneficiaries of the Proclamation's purpose, but I've always wondered why the Emancipation Proclamation, is not celebrated universally in this country. I believe it's issuance should strike a chord with all Americans, since it marks the beginning of this country's recognizance that "all men are created equal," and set the country on a path towards achieving that goal. True freedom in other words.
This quest for true freedom and equality by Blacks in this country has shaped the character of this nation more than anything else, positively and negatively, in my opinion. As such, I think it should be recognized as an official U.S. holiday.
I grew up in East Texas, where Juneteenth was a pretty big deal. I also lived in Denver for a while, which didn't have a large Black population at all. Yet Denver annually stages one of the biggest Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S. , founded by Texans who had moved to Colorado. There are many other such celebrations around the country as well, particularly here in the Houston/Galveston metro area, Juneteenth's epicenter.
Do you celebrate Juneteenth? If so, how? I'll be updating this post a little later with Juneteenth postings from around the web, and if you see any good ones or have one up yourself, please leave a link in the comments.
Happy Juneteenth y'all.
UPDATED: Here are links to some other posts around the Afrosphere so far.