Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
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I love Juneteenth
The bitter sweetness of today speaks unintelligible volumes about the black people in America. Across the nation, reactions to Juneteenth vary from anti-celebratory to jubilee- with plenty of apathy between. Some consider Juneteenth an embarrassment- citing January 1st as the real day of emancipation. After all, who's fault is it they didn't get the news on time?
Others celebrate privately, but most allow July 4th to monopolize freedom celebrations.
But what should be celebrated today, if anything? When I think about the creation of the holiday, perspective blooms.
What is January 1st to those who were still enslaved January 2nd? Or should they have waited until the next month to join the freedom celebrations they previously watched from bondage?
Celebrate Juneteenth. Celebrate the freedom you have but didn't know. Celebrate the difference between emancipation, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrate with the promise that next time, you won't have to be told 'you are free'.
I proclaim Juneteenth a day of putting freedom into practice. Perhaps in two years the world will join me.