Juneteenth Means Moving Forward, but Remembering the Past
June 19th, 1865, also known as “Juneteenth”, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It was on this day that Major General Gordon Granger led his Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas to notify slaves and slave owners that the war had ended and that all enslaved people were now free. It wasn’t until this date that General Gordon Granger took control of the state of Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the over 250,000 slaves in Texas at the time.
Now if you’re a history buff, you’re probably thinking, didn’t Abraham Lincoln’s declaration of the Emancipation Proclamation mark the end of slavery on January 1, 1863? Wasn’t this nearly two and a half years before Juneteenth in 1865? Throughout the course of the Civil War, Texas was not as closely monitored as the other states, which is why so many slave owners flocked to the area at the time.
But what took them so long? There are several historical theories as to how the residents of Texas were unaware of the declaration of the end of slavery. One theory holds that the messenger sent to Texas to share the news of the ending of slavery was killed in route, while others state that the information was intentionally withheld from slaves in Texas. Even after Juneteenth, many of these newly freed slaves had nowhere else to turn, often traveling up North or to areas including Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma in search of family.
Although Juneteenth marks the true eradication of American slavery, the day wasn’t recognized as a holiday until January 1, 1980 thanks to the efforts of Al Edwards, a former member of Texas Legislature. First recognized in Texas, the holiday celebrates African American freedom and achievements while encouraging the continuous development and respect for all cultures. Perhaps most important, Juneteenth works to promote cultural knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture, as does 1954 by Blended Designs.
It is our mission to educate black youth about representation as well as to empower these youths through the creation of school gear that encourages them to do their best. Part of how this mission is achieved is through the celebration of African American history with holidays like Juneteenth. This is a time to recall our nation’s history, as well as strength and progress. This is a time to celebrate, and remember.