Happy Juneteenth

What a great day for all people who treasure freedom, liberty and human dignity.  Juneteenth is not widely celebrated in mainstream American culture, but it should be.  However, in African/American society, it’s considered quite an important time.  Juneteenth is also known as June Nineteenth.

There are several explanations as to why there was a two and a half year delay between the deliverance of the news about the Emancipation Proclamation becoming official on January 1, 1863 and the arrival of the information in Texas on June 19th, 1865.  None of the excuses have any basis in official policy.  It’s easy to understand why it happened when one looks at social conditions of the 1800s in the USA.

It was on that day that Union trooops under the leadership of Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas.  One of General Granger’s main objectives was to inform the citizens about the Emancipation Proclamation.  “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 ensuing joy in learning about their freedom led to a celebratory, jubilant and festive situation for the former Texas slaves.  Celebrants eventually coined the word “Juneteenth”.  The holiday became important for family reunions, religious thanksgiving and reassurance. 

Educational opportunity has always been a part of Juneteenth public gatherings.  Important guest speakers are generally invited to share their wisdom with the celebrants.  The festive atmosphere is enhanced with rodeos, baseball, music and barbecues.  The barbecues were often pot luck picnics as families brought specialty dishes to share.

Lingering hostility and racism caused the official prohibition of the use of public property for Juneteenth.   This led to the use of rural areas around rivers, creeks and lakes as picnic grounds.  Noteably, one of the most famous places for celebration of Juneteenth came about through a fund raising drive organized by Reverend Jack Yates.  The effort brought $1,000 in donations and the deed to Emancipation Park in Houston.  A similar drive took place in Mexia, Texas.  The organizers purchased land for Booker T. Washington Park.  The first Juneteenth party there, took place in 1898.

Conditions eventually became unfavorable for Juneteenth celebrations.  Jim Crow laws and prejudice had a part. Later, the Great Depression took a toll because people migrated to the north and to cities looking for work.  The fervor was also channelled into Fourth of July celebrations.

However, the 1950s and 1960s saw a resurgence in Juneteenth during the Civil Rights movement.  Juneteenth freedom pins began appearing during protests in Atlanta, Georgia.  In fact, Reverend Ralph Abernathy requested that citizens of all races, beliefs, classes and professions join in a mass demonstration in Washington D.C.  Some of the attendees returned home and began Juneteenth celebrations in many states and cities.  Most of the locations had never celebrated the holiday until that time.

A further spur happened through the work of Texas state legislator Al Edwards who pushed for official recognition of the holiday.  It was on January 1, 1980 that the bill became Texas law that Juneteenth became a state holiday.  This became the foundation for other Juneteenth commemorations in other states, and in some other nations, as well.

May we have freedom and liberty for ALL today and all the days to come.

Ciao

The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you can find time to celebrate the elimination of slavery in the USA.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, History, Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Happy Juneteenth

  1. Pingback: International Sauntering Day | bluejayblog

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