June 17, 2021

The Story of Juneteenth

Juneteenth is annual holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States, its a mix of June and Nineteenth, Originating in Galveston, Texas, it is now celebrated annually on June 19 throughout the United States,...

Juneteenth is annual holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States, its a mix of June and Nineteenth, Originating in Galveston, Texas, it is now celebrated annually on June 19 throughout the United States, with increasing official recognition. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas.


Please support our Patreon:

Buy me a Coffee

African Americans : a concise history
By Hine, Darlene Clark


Juneteenth is annual holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States, its a mix of June and Ninetenth, Originating in Galveston, Texas, it is now celebrated annually on June 19 throughout the United States, with increasing official recognition. It is commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865 announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas.

Slavery is one of the major cause of the civil war, yet when the civil war started in 1861 neither side entered the conflict with any intention changing slavery. white southerners wanted to wage war to make the confederacy an indepenedent nation free to promote slavery as they saw fit and white northerners wanted to maintain the union but had no intention of freeing a single slave. Throughout the early part of the war, President Lincoln was unwavered in his focus to preserve the union, any policy that help or hindered black people were secondary to that goal.  So when lincoln called for 75000 men to enlist in the military for 90 days with the national government. The support was overwheling from both White and black men but only black men were rejected for miliatry service.

See Black people recognized long before white america did that the fate of the union was tied to black folks and to the issue of slavery and the future of slavery was tied to the outcome of the civil war. The black newspaper the anglo african stated, "we are concerned in this fight and our fate hangs upon this issues". so black men in new york formed their own miliary compaines and began to drill, black people in boston they even drew up a resolution modeled on the declaration of independence and black slaves even started to liberate themsevles almost as soon as the war started but union leaders had no actual policy on how to deal with them. union commander showed more concern for the interest of slaverowners than for the people in slavery. general ulysses s grant even returned runaway slaves to their owners if the owners supported the union. 

In augest 6 1861 congress clarified the state of runaway slaves with the first confiscation act. federal forces could seize any property that belonged to the confederates used in the war effert. any slaves their master used to benefit the confederacy and only those slave would be freed. union general john c fremont would exceeded those limits by freeing all the slaves belonging to the confederates in missouri. Lincoln told fremont that only slaves used to aid the confederate war effort were to be freed because lincoln worried that fremont would drive missiouri or kentucky in to the confederacy. black leaders and abolitionist were displeased with lincoln they felt it was foolish to fight a war against the south without fighting aginst slavery because the south was so dependent on it. but for more than a year of the civil war, lincoln remained reluctant to strick decisively against slavery.

lincoln believed the long term solution to slavery was compensated emancipation of slaves followed by their colonization outside of the country. the slave owner would be paid for the loss of their slaves and the slaves would be freed but forced to settle in another country in the caribean, latin american or west africa. 

However by the summer of 1862, bourder states rejected compensated emancipation and lincoln finally concluded that victory and the future of the union was tied directly to the issue of slavery. Lincoln desided slavery would be come the instrument of war, lincoln would use to the hasten the end of the war and restore the union. finally on Sept 22 1862, more than two month after lincoln first started considering the freedom fro enslaved people, he issed the preliminary emancipation proclamation. it stipulated that anyone in bondage in states or parts of states still in rebellion on jan 1 1863 would be thenceforwad and forwever free but if any confederate state rejoined the union before 1863 their slaves would remain in bondage.

On january 1 1863, Lincoln issued he emancipation proclamation, it was the first significant effrt by union authorities to assure freedom to nearly 4 million inslaved people of african descent. despite excitment from black communities, the language of the emancipation proclamation was actually very uninspiring, the language limited the emanipation to those states and areas still in rebellion, and did not include neslaved people in in the four border states or areas still in the union or in areas of comfederate states that union forces had already occupided. thus hundered of thousands of black people would remain in enslaved despite the proclamation. while the emancipation proclamation not only marked the beginning of the end of slavery, it also autorized the enlistemnt of black troops in the union army. just as leaders in the north came to realize the preservation of the union made it nessasry to abolish slavery, they als begain to understand that black men were need for the military effort if the union army was to win the war.

This brings us to Juneteenth As Northern troops advanced into the Confederate South, many enslaved people fled behind Union lines, But in Texas, slavery had continued as the state experienced no large-scale fighting or significant Union presence. Many enslavers from outside of Texas acutally moved there, as they viewed it as a safe haven for slavery. But as the war came to a close, General Gordon Granger’s arrival in Galveston, Texas in June, 1865 and dispatched his now famous order No. 3 that signaled freedom for Texas 250,000 enslaved people.

“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.”

But General Order, Number 3, wasn’t exactly instant magic for most of the Texas’s 250,000 slaves. On plantations, masters had to decide when and how to announce the news — or wait for a government agent to arrive — and it was not uncommon for them to delay releasing their slaves until after the next harvest. Even in Galveston, the ex-Confederate mayor forced the freed people back to work. Those who acted on the news did so at their risk. ‘You could see lots of enslaved people hangin’ to trees in right after freedom, In one extreme case, a former slave named Katie Darling continued working for her mistress another six years.

All of this hardly seems like a recipe for a celebration — which is what makes the story of Juneteenth all the more remarkable. the confusion and delay, terror and violence, the newly “freed” black men and women of Texas, with the aid of the Freedmen’s Bureau, now had a date to rally around. they transformed June 19 from a day of simple military orders into their own annual rite, JubileeDay, Emancipation  or “Juneteenth,” begin just one year later in 1866.

Emancipation celebrations were common around the country during the late 19th and early 20th century but They marked the date each state was freed, not the Texas June 19th holiday. In Washington, D.C., celebrabations of Emancipation Day were on April 16, the date Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act. Some counties in Tennessee, even observed Emancipation Day on Aug. 8 because that state wasn’t subject to the Emancipation Proclamation because Tennessee was under Union control by June 6, 1862, four months before Lincoln wrote his preliminary draft of the emancipation.

After recontruction prioed, many black leaders debated the importance of remembering milestone anniversaries given how african americans where been treated in this conuntry but the freed people of Texas went about the business of celebrating their local version of Emancipation Day annually. For them, Juneteenth was, from its earliest incarnation a celebration for remembering lost family members, measuring progress against freedom and ingraining rising generations with the values of self-improvement and racial uplift. This was accomplished through readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, religious sermons and spirituals, the preservation of food from slavery, as well as the incorporation of new games and traditions, from baseball to rodeos and, later, stock car races and overhead flights.

Juneteenth was only strengthened in Texas in the years after the first celebration because following Reconstruction, white texans rallied around their version of history in an effort to glorify and wash over their past cruelties and defeats. When White Texans forbade blacks from using their public spaces, black people gathered near rivers and lakes and eventually raised enough money to buy their own celebration sites, like Emancipation Park in Houston and Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia.

What also helped strengthened the texas holiday was its move across state lines during the great migration (which was the mass migration of african americans from the south beginning in the early 20th centery), The people from Texas took Juneteenth Day to cites like Los Angeles, chicago, and deriot. As it spread, the observance was also changing. This was especially true in the 1920s, because this was a new Age of comsumerism infiltrating black society with advertisements for fancy Juneteenth outfits and more elaborate displays.

however, Despite the great migration and people of texas’ best efforts, African Americans became increasingly disconnected from their own history in the mid to early 20th century, so that by the time of World War II, African Americans no longer faithfully celebrated their freedom from enslavement in a land that still rendered them second-class citizens worthy of dying for their country but not worthy of sharing the same waterfains. 

It is possible that this is where the story of Juneteenth end, at least outside of Texas had it not been for another set of remarkable events during the end of the civil rights movement,  in 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), drew on the symbolism of Juneteenth to produce a second March on Washington.  Branded as “Solidarity Day,” became the centerpiece of the Poor People’s Campaign

Martin Luther King Jr. had been planning a return to the site of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, this lead the idea for a  Poor People’s March emphasizing americans class inequalities. Following his assassination on May 12 1968, it was left to  Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and his widow, Coretta Scott King. They moved forward with the Poor People’s Campaign, including the establishment of Resurrection City, a collection of temporary shelters built along-side the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where some 2,500 mostly poor men, women and children lived for six weeks. 

On June 19, 1968, more than fifty thousand people gathered to commemorate Juneteenth and held a Solidarity Day rally and march on Washington, By linking Solidarity Day to Juneteenth, the Poor People’s Campaign connected the emancipation of enslaved people to freedom from the economic oppression for poor people of all colors. The people at the rally took the idea of the [Juneteenth] celebration back to their respective communities. With this boost of new energy, in 1979 Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Since then, 41 other states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday or holiday observance. Still Juneteenth  remains an unofficial national holiday and is not celebrated on the federal level.

These days, Juneteenth celebrations still often feature some mix of religious services and storytelling, while music, food, Parades, festivals, with other celebrations of Black culture. Barbecue has always been a focal point of the holiday, with Texas newspaper articles from the late-1800s reporting that “the preparation and sharing of food was the main attraction” at many a Juneteenth celebration. Today following an national protests against systemic racism and police violence, the holiday has gained larger attention outside of african ameircan commmunities and pressured builds on a federal level to recognise juneteeth as a holiday. As recently as wednesday 6/16 united states senate and house of rep passed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday, while bill still needs to be signed by the president, but if it is signed it would make Juneteenth the 11 annual federal holiday. 

For me, the celebration of Juneteenth would serve the purpose of Every year reminding subsequent generations of the events triggered the events of Juneteeth and the challenges and responsibilities we face as americans moving forward.

This is the story of Juneteenth and why its still important day.