So you’d think a History major who prided himself on knowing the history of the Civil War and that era would have known about Juneteenth. Well, maybe others matching that description did, but this one didn’t. And I’m embarrassed by that fact.
It’s just been in the last few weeks that I’ve become “woke” to the racial injustice that has plagued our nation since our birth. Not that I wasn’t aware it existed, but “aware” is now newly defined. The last weeks and the subsequent education that I’ve taken on has been like a gut punch to my soul. Juneteenth all of a sudden emerged as a day for all Americans to celebrate, yet in my world it’s only been my Black neighbors who knew about it.
In an effort to continue my education, I’d like to share with all of you some important facts about this special day:
Juneteenth is also known as “Freedom Day,” and originated out of Texas. While President Abraham Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery on September 22, 1862, there was still a Civil War to wage. When General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, the war was officially over and the slaves in the South were all “officially” freed.
Of course, there was no television news or social media in 1865, so news travelled slowly. It wasn’t until June 18th that Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Island with 2,000 troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. The following day – June 19, 1865 – General Granger stood on a balcomy and read aloud the contents of “General Order #3,” announcing the total emancipation of all slaves:
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.
And so, you have the cliff note version of the beginning of the celebration of Juneteenth – 155 years ago today.
I’m going to educate myself more on Juneteenth, becasue this should be a celebration for all Americans. I encourage you to do the same.
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