Juneteenth: A Celebration of Emancipation

Friday, June 19, 2020: Today is Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day or Cel-liberation Day, this American holiday dates back to 1865 when, on June 19th, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Texas, the most remote of the slave states, was the last Confederate State to officially receive word of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 — a full two and a half years earlier. And it was only after this regiment arrived that forces were finally strong enough to overcome remaining resistance to emancipation.

One of General Granger’s first orders of business on June 19th 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 hired laborer.”

Understandably, reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many previously enslaved people lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many more left to rejoin separated family members and to explore freedom in places they had only heard about. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America.

The path forward wasn’t easy, but recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation and release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territories. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration provided a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

While we celebrate the freedom bestowed all those years ago, the racial injustice and social unrest we continue to witness in our communities today shows that we still have hard work ahead to balance the scales of justice for all Americans. This is mission critical work, and we at Embrace Families are committed to being part of driving the change that we want to see in our world – change that is essential to making the world better for the young people that rely on us to help safeguard their futures.

Source: National Registry – www.Juneteenth.com/history.htm.