Today is the 154th anniversary of Juneteenth, a historical event in history that marked the beginning of change for African American slaves and the African American community today. The history behind the date can be linked back to the days of the Civil War.
The Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln and stated that slaves in the rebellious states were free, was not enforced in some parts of the south, particularly Texas. This was due to the lack of Union soldier presence to enforce the Proclamation. It took two and a half years in order for it to become apparent that slaves, were in fact, free. In 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led an army of Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas, and read General Order No. 3, which stated:
“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.”
The reactions to this news differed from extreme excitement to pure shock and disbelief. Some African Americans stayed to learn what the new employer-employee dynamic would be like, while others simply fled and did not wait a second to learn about what the owners would have to offer. Some went to neighboring states in order to reunite with family, while others went to the north in attempts to start over. Either way, the news was thrilling to African Americans, and resulted in the celebration and creation of what is now known as Juneteenth.
In the earlier days, Juneteenth celebrations consisted of cookouts, fishing, horseback riding, and more. They were usually held at parks or churches because of the resistance from white people and their defiance. After a few years, people began pulling money together and eventually managed to buy property to hold celebrations on. One of the first recorded purchases of land was Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas. The celebrations were very important for decades until the twenties, when the only way it could be celebrated was if it fell on a weekend. It wasn’t until the 50s and 60s during the Civil Rights movement that there was a resurgence of celebrations. In 1980, Texas made Juneteenth an official holiday.
“All but four states celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday”
Today celebrations continue in 45 out of 50 states, and we remember the emancipation of all slaves becoming finalized 154 years ago, as it represents the beginning of a long road of turmoil, resistance, persistence, and change for the African American community. It was the start of the path paved towards equality. The emancipation of slaves gave them their experience of freedom, even though that was not even close to true freedom. It is important to remember the struggle that African Americans faced throughout the many years of slavery, and thereafter. The injustice that they have faced in America is unforgettable, and we celebrate the strength that they all have had throughout challenges. The injustice that they have faced is unforgettable, and NYAP stands behind the inclusion of diversity across the globe.