The African-American community has had to struggle a lot to secure their place in the world. The struggle claimed many victims, but after a battle that lasted over 150 years, the people finally won their right to be called humans and be treated as such. However, one of the biggest events that marked the death of slavery, Juneteenth, still suffers from obscurity.
President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. But the roots of the heinous practice were so deeply entrenched that it took three more years before the full emancipation of America’s slaves was completed.
June 19, 1865 was that eventful day in history when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to issue General Order No. 3, officially freeing America’s final slaves. This date has since been celebrated as Black Independence Day, or Juneteenth. Though the day bore witness to one of the biggest victories for African-Americans, Juneteenth is seldom remembered, let alone celebrated with gusto outside the Lone Star State.
By all means, Juneteenth marks the official end of slavery in the United States. Though there are pockets of communities who still remember the events and long struggle for freedom, many educators strongly feel students and adults alike are still unaware of or have sketchy data about Juneteenth’s history and cultural importance.
Here are some of the important and interesting facts about the day:
More than 200 cities across the nation celebrate Juneteenth in some way, ranging from day-long festivals to longer events. But Texas and Oklahoma are the only states that recognize Juneteenth as a legal holiday.
As with each holiday and festival, Juneteenth too has its earmarked culinary treats. Strawberry soda pop and barbecuing have become closely associated with Juneteenth celebrations.
The celebration at Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia, Texas, was at one time one of the nation’s largest. More than 20,000 African-Americans would travel to the site over a week-long event that included activities such as rodeos, baseball, and barbecuing. Flamboyant and celebratory prayer services also make the event special.
The exact chronological records as to why it took almost 3 years for slaves in Texas to learn that they had been freed are very sketchy and debatable. While some believe that a messenger was killed while heading to Texas to deliver the news, a more logical explanation could be that land owners who condoned slavery and horded slaves kept the information hidden.
Owing to the decline in first-hand accounts from family members, perhaps the importance of Juneteenth has lessened in the hearts of young African-Americans. However, that doesn’t mean it was one of the biggest day in American history.