The Fourth of July is nationally recognized and celebrated as the nation’s Independence Day, but were you also aware of the importance of June 19th? The overall culture in America is one that has mastered the art of offering a watered-down, whitewashed, and totally inaccurate account of historical facts throughout time. If you do not read, research and question what you think you know, you will find yourself in the dark about topics that should be considered common knowledge.
Most people associate the complete abolition of slavery with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 however, this is not entirely accurate. The federal declaration wasn’t adhered to in Texas and it was not until June 19th, 1865 that Union troops led by, General Granger went to Galveston, Texas to enforce the proclamation and declare the slaves free.
While the announcement of freedom reached Texas nearly two and a half years later, the reaction to the news was mixed. Upon notification, many former slaves had nowhere to go, but felt leaving the plantations immediately was their best recourse. Many left for the north which was deemed an ideal destination for freedom and others settled in nearby states, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Early Juneteenth celebrations were met with opposition as the festivities weren’t allowed in public spaces. Instead, they were held in rural areas, church grounds and near rivers to allow for a variety of activities. Common celebrations included fishing, barbecues, rodeos, prayer sessions, education and a sharing of wisdom passed down by the elders.
The Great Depression and rise of formalized education contributed to a decline in the annual celebrations with more people forgoing traditional practices and adopting a newer way of life. Increased awareness of Juneteenth was prevalent during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and thanks to the efforts of a Black state legislator, Al Edwards, Juneteenth was declared a state holiday in Texas.
Modern day celebrations occur all across the United States by organizers who are committed to ensuring the future generations understand the cultural relevance of celebrating the abolition of slavery for all of the enslaved.