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Welcome to Communizine! Today is June 12th, 2018
Juneteenth is a uniquely American holiday, the oldest nationally-celebrated festival to honor the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday started as a local celebration in Galveston, Texas in 1865 but has become a nationwide observance of the day the news of the June 19th African-American Emancipation Day spread from one side of the United States to the other.
Today’s modern Juneteenth celebrations and festivals place an emphasis on celebrating the freedom of African-Americans, and many celebrations honor excellence in education and other achievement in the African-American community. Juneteenth can be celebrated as a single day, a week’s worth of festivities, and in some parts of the country, an entire month dedicated to the memory of slavery and Emancipation.
This is a big holiday in any part of the world with a large African-American population, featuring guest speakers, cookouts, performances, picnics, and family reunions. It’s a happy holiday, a time that African- Americans and others set aside to reflect on the past and celebrate their freedom.
On the other side of the coin, Juneteenth can also be seen as a time for bettering the African-American community. Some African-American community advocates used the holiday as a time to assess the health of the community and plan to make improvements in the future.
Juneteenth is growing in popularity; more and more communities are banding together to celebrate the dignity of African-Americans. Cities and towns across the USA join together to acknowledge the truth of our past with slavery and to work together to right the wrongs of the past.
The History of Juneteenth
On June 19th, 1865, Union Soldiers and Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with big news. They told the locals that the Civil War was over, and that all enslaved people were now free by government decree.
The funny thing about Juneteenth is that the holiday actually started a full two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The freeing of slaves was official as of January 1, 1863. The trouble in Texas? Not enough Union Soldiers to make sure the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced. In fact, it took a full two years after General Lee’s surrender in April of 1865 for General Granger and his men to overcome local resistance to the order and spread freedom to the south.
Many stories exist attempting to explain why it took two years for slaves in Texas to find out they were free: some say a messenger was sent to spread the news but was murdered before he could reach Texas. Still others suggest that the news of freedom was withheld from African-Americans in order to maintain their free source of labor. The most likely answer is a combination of the fact that news traveled slowly in those days and there was not a large Union presence in Texas to uphold Lincoln’s authority.
Juneteenth celebrates General Granger’s Proclamation read to the people of Texas, called General Order Number 3. The most significant part of this address says:
“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.”
African-Americans, now freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, started to spread across the south. Some went north, thinking that northern states would supply true freedom, while others stayed in Texas or moved to nearby Louisiana, Arkansas, or Oklahoma.
Every year since 1865, African-Americans have been celebrating their Emancipation, or at least the news of it, that reached them on June 19, 1865. This party eventually came to be known simply as Juneteenth and spread all over the country. It’s still most commonly celebrated in Texas, where many descendants of slaves make an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston to celebrate the holiday.
Juneteenth Celebrations and Festivals
Because Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, it is generally a happy time. People celebrate lots of different ways, from holding family reunions, cookouts, to more formal celebrations and church services. How you choose to celebrate is a personal decision, one that’s usually handed down from one generation to the next.
Here are a few different celebrations. If you want to celebrate the news of the freeing of slaves this year, check out a Juneteenth celebration near you, or start your own tradition celebrating freedom.
In New Orleans, LA
Some Events are Free
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery. New Orleans hosts events around the City, including in historic locations like Congo Square in Armstrong Park, to commemorate together. Though it started out as a celebration for freed Texas slaves, the holiday has spread to other communities, especially those with large African-American populations. The festivities in New Orleans range from special church services to a city-wide parade to events to honor African- American slave history and heritage.
In Lafayette, LA
Southwest Louisiana Music Festival
Heymann Park|1500 S Orange St Lafayette, LA
SWLA Juneteenth Music Festival showcasing a variety of Southwest Louisiana’s best musician talent including gospel, R&B, zydeco, reggae, west African and much much more. The SWLA Juneteenth Music Festival also provides entertainment and activities for youth including free African drum making workshops, face painting, train rides, and fun jumps, etc. Vendors will be on site selling food and merchandise. **No outside food or drink allowed. No BBQ pits or coolers allowed. ** Bring your lawn chairs, appetites, and dancing shoes! Visit https://www.swlajuneteenth.org/juneteenth-music-festival for more information!
How to Have Your Own Juneteenth Celebration
If there is no celebration in your area and you’d like to start a festivity of your own, concentrate on the meaning of the holiday. Almost any type of celebration fits the spirit of this holiday as long as it emphasizes African-American history and heritage. Family gatherings, sharing food with neighbors, and teaching children the importance of June 19th, 1865 are all good ways to honor the rich history of this African-American festival.