It is with open hearts and indescribable elation that African Americans and the country are awaiting Juneteenth, the official celebration of the end of slavery when the enslaved Blacks in Galveston, Texas were officially made aware that the Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery. This was two years late and Galveston, Texas was the last place to get the message to its enslaved population, but it doesn’t take away from the significance of this great declaration.
The name ‘Juneteenth’ was derived with combining June with nineteenth, the month and day 2000 Union troops led by Gen. Gordon Granger delivered General Order No. 3 to Galveston, Texas in 1865 citing the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves was announced on January 1, 1963, by President Abraham Lincoln, it wasn’t fully felt by all enslaved until two months after the Civil War in 1865 when it reached Texas. You can imagine the unbridled jubilation and excitement felt by those African Americans realizing that they were no longer chattel property but free Americans—like their White counterparts.
We can argue about the reason it took so long to be recognized in Texas, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the total acknowledgment of the freeing of enslaved African Americans came to full fruition in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. Whether it was a political move to help the Union win the Civil War or a benevolent act on the part of this country (doing what was right), the fact remains that it happened.
Juneteenth has been celebrated in many towns and communities throughout the country, with many different dates—coinciding when that town or community got the message they were free. But June 19 has been declared the official national date of this celebration. In fact, President Joe Biden officially signed a bill June 17, 2021 making Juneteenth a national federal holiday. While all states may not recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday for all its employees, it is recognized as a holiday of observance.
Juneteenth is a day of celebration commemorating the end of slavery with a plethora of activities, including: church prayer services, family gatherings with cookouts or picnics, concerts, parades, speeches, and festivals manifesting African American culture with food, dance, and music. It is a time when diversity and inclusion is welcomed and encouraged showing all our brothers and sisters in this country the rich and beautiful traditions of part of America’s interwoven tapestry making up this country.
Juneteenth is a celebration of love and an acknowledgement of God’s grace and mercy answering enslaved African Americans’ cries and prayers of deliverance. It should be a day signifying hope, love, acceptance and unity. While the history of this country is far from perfect for African Americans, it is always a blessing when we can all come together as a nation, and celebrate getting it right.
As a citizen of Tennessee, I am extremely proud and honored that our Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill on May 5 officially recognizing Juneteenth as an official state holiday, when it previously was looked upon just as a day of observance. This may be an olive branch showing that we all can appreciate each other’s values, despite our ever-conflicting views
Juneteenth is a reminder that African Americans are valuable asset to this country and should be appreciated and honored. It is a time to truly show up, celebrate, and ‘show out’—acknowledging that African Americans ‘rock.’