June 16, 2020 4 min read
The Juneteenth Holiday
Now is the time to fight against the rampant racial injustice in the United States. Let George Floyd be the last of our people to go through such horror. In all honesty, this just has to stop. Black people in not only the United States, but globally need to be given the true freedom and true respect they deserve as human beings. Speaking of freedom, Juneteenth is among those special holidays that very few Americans are aware of. The fact that it’s so rampantly forgotten is shocking if you consider just how important June 19th is to the lives of many African-Americans.
Juneteenth is the day our African-American ancestors first knew what true freedom tasted like.
The History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Cel-Liberation Day) is the day that the Emancipation Announcement was put to full effect, and the last of the African-American slaves were freed. It's June 19th, 1865. It is the day that the word “slave” lost a certain meaning to all African-American persons in the United States.
But did you know that the Emancipation announcement was made official on January 1st, 1863? It took an entire two years after for all African-Americans to gain complete freedom from slavery.
Why did it take so long? It was at the same time that the country was going through a Civil War. Even though the president made the Emancipation announcement years before, some rebellious states like Texas had yet to implement the declaration.
On June 19th, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger, led an army unit to Galveston, Texas. With them came the news that the Civil War, together with slavery, was finally over.
It's important to note that not all people favored the end of African-American slavery in the United States. There are claims that the slave masters in Texas were well aware of the Emancipation announcement, however, they kept this information hidden from the African-American community because they wanted to keep them in the fields a little bit longer until all the cotton was harvested.
General Order Number 3
Immediately upon arriving in Texas, General Granger went ahead and read the famous General Order Number 3 to the people. This order stated:
“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."
Shock and disbelief were evident upon all faces as these words echoed all over the place. The African-Americans leaped with jubilation as they felt that life had given them a second chance. To them, this was a new beginning as they sought to now live their lives as free people.
Some slave-masters went ahead and tried to negotiate new “employer-employee” terms with their former slaves as they didn’t want to lose their workforce. However, most freed African-Americans didn’t want anything to do with them and decided to leave the fields and venture into the unknown with their new-found freedom. Anywhere away from the fields was more than enough for them.
The now free African-Americans took this chance to look for their lost relatives who were spread all over the states. For many, this was the first time in years that they were able to finally see their fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. Juneteenth not only brought forth freedom, but it also further strengthened the bonds of family.
Let’s all be honest. Black people, in the United States and around the globe, know how to have a good time. We owe it to our ancestors.
Juneteenth was celebrated with a lot of activities like baseball, fishing, barbeques, and rodeos. Many saw this as the time to sit down and think their way forward.
Of course, with freedom came many challenges as they sought to rebuild their lives all over again. Juneteenth can also be seen as the African-American’s day of self-improvement.
It's also on this special day that all sorts of foods were prepared; Lamb, pork, and beef. Foods that were only reserved for special occasions and ceremonies. They also changed their modes of dressing as a sign of freedom. During the slave trade era, some laws specifically limited African-American dressing.
Juneteenth Celebrations slowly grew in size and activities as African-Americans worked hard to become land-owners and in turn, donated pieces of their property to the celebrations. Emancipation Park in Huston, Texas is a good example of this.
The decline of Juneteenth Celebrations
Why isn’t Juneteenth as popular as it once was?
As the years went by, Juneteenth celebrations slowly declined as the first generation of the free African-Americans passed on. The new generation couldn't fully digest just how important Juneteenth was. In addition to that, classroom education gave more attention to January 1, 1863, as the day when the Emancipation announcement was put to effect. Slowly, African-Americans began to put Juneteenth on the back burner, and some forgot about the holiday all together.
The Resurgence of Juneteenth Celebrations
It didn’t take long for African-Americans to realize they weren’t as free as the United States claimed they were. Not yet.
Racial discrimination and social injustices against African-Americans were still rampant across the nation. The Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s reminded the youth that the fight for freedom was far from over.
Even in 2020, the fight for freedom still rages on. Let Juneteenth be the day that African-Americans all over the country come together to not only celebrate the freedom of our ancestors from slavery, but also encourage each other as we wage war on racial discrimination.
May we never forget Juneteenth. May Juneteenth forever be a reminder that if we fight hard enough, all people will one day be free from racial discrimination and social injustices.
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