History of Juneteenth Day

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has urged June 19th to be celebrated as the emancipation holiday. He wants to introduce a measure to the make the lesser known date a national observance. The Texas Republican’s resolution would mark June 19th as Juneteenth Independence Day recognizing June 19, 1865 which was the day when an order was read which officially freed the slaves in Texas.

Juneteenth a shortened version of June 19 has become symbolic with the freeing of slaves. The day will be celebrated similar to Flag Day or Arbor Day when institutions are not closed but the day will have national recognition. Hutchison said via an e-mail, “By observing this day, our nation will honor the role that Juneteenth has played in African American culture in Texas and throughout the country, and it will remind us that, in America, we are all blessed to live in freedom”. Hutchison’s staff says that the legislation is not controversial and they do not expect any opposition to it. The passing of this bill is another step in the movement to make Juneteenth prominent. Forty-one states observe Juneteenth and have passed bills for establishing the day as a state observance, nearly half of them since 2007. Union soldiers had landed at Galveston, Texas on June 19th 1865 to declare that the Civil War had ended and that all the people who were enslaved are free. The declaration was made two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which was issued on September 22nd 1862 to be effective from January 1, 1863 and since then people have been conducting marches, plays, festivals to mark the anniversary.

A movement was started for getting wider recognition to the holiday called the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign which was launched by Ronald Myers who was a medical missionary in the Mississippi delta. He had grown up in Milwaukee which celebrates Juneteenth most elaborately but when he moved to the Delta he saw that the tenant farmers led similar lives to the slaves on plantations which made him realize that it was important to highlight Juneteenth and the nation’s slavery history. He said, “America needs healing from the legacy of enslavement, and America needs to confront constructively its dark history of slavery”. The people in Galveston celebrate Juneteenth as a national holiday and about 200 or so annually attend the event at the Reedy Chapel AME Church where the General Order Number 3 was read by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger. Sharon Gillins, member of the event’s planning committee says, “I think it’s a holiday for American people, in accomplishing the freedom of hundreds of thousands of slaves, we moved one step forward to living up to our Constitution. It’s as important as the Fourth of July”.

Leave a Reply

 

Switch to our mobile site