Here’s Why Texas Takes Up Such An Important Place In The History Of Juneteenth And The Abolition Movement
For those of you unaware, Juneteenth is the holiday that officially commemorates the abolishment of slavery in America. While the Emancipation Proclamation was signed over two years earlier, we celebrate Juneteenth because it’s the day Texas finally complied with the law and informed slaves they were free.
Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, made effective beginning January 1, 1863.
Back in the late 1800s, word traveled slowly. When the Civil War was won, it took over two months for Confederate soldiers to hear that Robert E. Lee surrendered. Other more sinister and likely theories are that slaveowners kept the news a secret for as long as possible, and/or someone actually killed the messenger sent by the Federal government to relay the news.
Thirty months later, Galveston Island, Texas, was the last town in America that was illegally enslaving African Americans.
General Gordon Granger and his cohort of Union soldiers had been traveling the South for two years to spread the word that slaves were freed. His last stop was Galveston Island, on June 19th, 1865.
The story has it that the freed slaves left before Granger finished his announcement.
Droves of freed African-Americans fled Texas to find more welcoming (northern) parts of the U.S. While Juneteenth is the day we celebrate freedom, slavery never ended. There were several reports of slave owners deliberately waiting to free their slaves until after the harvest.
In a way, Juneteenth commemorates what we all already know to be true: justice delayed for Black and brown folks is somehow worth celebrating.
When freed slaves tried to celebrate Juneteenth a year later, Jim Crow laws were already in effect.
There were no public places they could use. A group of freed slaves in Houston pooled $800 to purchase what is now called “Emancipation Park.” For seventy more years, it would be the only public park and swimming pool open to African-Americans in Houston.
The Mascogos, often called the Black Seminoles, live and celebrate Juneteenth in Coahuila, Mexico.
The origin of this group is difficult to pinpoint. Some say they were African slaves of the Florida Seminole tribe and fled to Mexico, where they made alliances with local indigenous groups. Others say that they were freed slaves who lived among the Florida Seminole tribes as equals and created their own community.
Every year, what’s left of the community celebrates Juneteenth in full regalia.
Texas was the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state-wide holiday.
When Barack Obama was a Senator, he co-sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. He continued that fight into his presidency, but it never passed.
To this day, it’s shocking how many folks pass by Juneteenth and look to July 4th as a celebration of freedom.
If Fannie Lou Hammer was right in saying “nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” then America’s founding ain’t the day to celebrate. Juneteenth put an end to the repulsive founding of America–built on the backs of Black men and women.
Juneteenth is both a day of celebration and resistance of modern-day slavery.
Over 150 years later, no meaningful reparations have been made to the descendants of slaves. The effects of slavery and Jim Crow live on in our laws as our country legally throws descendants of slaves into prison, into underfunded schools, and are legally murdered by police at disproportionate rates. One in every 13 African Americans has been stripped of the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws. White supremacy reigns.
Black America, we are with you.
Juneteenth is a day more Americans should celebrate. July 4th is a holiday that will always symbolize the freedom of the nation from the ruling of England. However, Juneteenth is when the nation decided to end the cruel and horrible act of slavery.
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