Juneteenth Celebration Freedom Day a commemoration of African-American freedom Presentation by Yvonne M. King
Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now Free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number Of Union troops to enforce the new Executive order. However with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people Of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with: “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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
The reactions to this profound news range from pure shock to immediate jubilation. African-American troops arrive home after the Civil War.
Large celebrations on June 19th began in 1866 and continued regularly into the early 20th century.
The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth Celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Observance of Juneteenth has traditionally tended towards church-centered celebrations featuring food, fun, and a focus on self-improvement and education by guest speakers. Food was central to the celebration and barbecued meats were especially popular. In earlier days, the celebration included a prayer service, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, rodeos and dances. Today, Juneteenth 141 years later… celebrates African American freedom while encouraging self-development and respect for all cultures. And will continue to be a day of remembrance of June 19, 1865 a day of complete FREEDOM!
“Naturally barbeque, prepared Texas style, dominates the feasting. The festivities start at dawn when pits are fired up for the barbecuing and the heavy aroma of chili cooking fills the air. The celebrating usually continues until the wee hours of the next morning. Juneteenth is a Mardi Gras without costumes.” ~Juneteen America Inc. The state of Texas made Juneteenth an official holiday on January 1, 1980 and became the first to grant government recognition of the celebration, today 19 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday and many others are preparing bills to put before their legislatures. Juneteenth (June 19, 1865) represents a very important milestone in American history, when our nation finally and truly became “the land of the free.”
Juneteenth is a very significant event in our American history. This is a part of history for all Freedom-Loving people to celebrate and treasure.
Testimonies and Memories… Booker T. Washington was born in 1856 on the Burroughs tobacco farm which, despite its small size, he always referred to as a "plantation." His mother was a cook, his father a white man from a nearby farm. “In company with my mother, brother, and sister and a large number of other slaves. I went to the master’s house. All of our master’s family were either standing or seated on the veranda of the house, where they could see what was to take place and hear what was said. The most distinct thing that I now recall was that some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper – the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.” ~Excerpts from Booker T. Washington
“Being raised by Texans, I remember my Mother & Father telling us about the Juneteenth Picnics back in their hometown Beaumont, TX. My mother said wearing white clothes on that picnic day was the big thing when she was growing up.” ~Yvonne King My mother and her sister late1940’s
“Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service, Without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is Impossible.” ~Mary McLeod Bethune I grew up in a region called the Mid-South, in the town of Paducah, KY about two hours north of Memphis. Juneteenth was not specifically celebrated in Paducah, but there was a day called “Homecoming” where people whose families came out of Paducah would come home for BBQ, food, fun and family reunions. This was celebrated on and was also known as “Eighth of August”. In the old days it was called “Dominican Emancipation Day”. The menu was pretty the same and like Juneteenth in Texas, it was the day that word of freedom reached town. I remember many fun summertime parties on Homecoming day in Paducah when I was a kid, and I still try to make it back there every few years to see friends and family. ~Darren V. Gerard
“It is a strange freedom to be adrift in the world of men, to act with no accounting, To go nameless up and down the streets of others minds where no salutation greets And no sign is given to mark the place one calls one’s own.” ~From The Inward Journey by Howard Thurman “At a recent family reunion my Great Aunt (my grandfather’s sister on my father’s side) who is 92 , the last living from A family of 12 had attended. And seeing our Welsh reunion “T-Shirts” with the Welsh emblem on the front and on the back it read “Family is Good” was perfect.” ~Don Welsh
“Conscience is like an open wound, and Only truth can heal it”. ~RDSA Diversity Office