Every year, African American communities all over the country host a Juneteenth Celebration. But what is it all about? The Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863. This famous act marked the end of slavery in the United States. Unfortunately, word of mouth was slow, and news did not, in fact, travel fast.
It was not until nearly three years later that Major General Gordon Granger brought the news to Galveston, Texas. This is largely due to the size of Texas, and the number of troops in place to enforce this new law. Also, until the arrival of Granger, they were not strong enough to influence the minds and actions of the resistance that was in place. Here is just a bit of history about what Juneteenth is all about.
The History of The Juneteenth Celebration
While there are many different explanations as to why it took nearly three years for the emancipation proclamation to go into effect in Texas. What remains is a celebration that marks the finality of this legal oppression in the United States. This celebration is called “Juneteenth”.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration marking the end of slavery in the United States. The news was finally brought to Texas and enacted on June 19, 1865. Following this final end to widespread slavery in the United States, an annual pilgrimage of African Americans (former slaves) began taking place during that week the following year as a way to commemorate the journey of their families and ancestors. Many even held celebrations in their new homes and lives, remembering their struggle and finally, their victory.
What Happens at a Juneteenth Celebration
Celebrations today take place in many forms, but the most common themes you will see are prayer, barbecues, and guest speakers in churches or local venues sharing about open-minded education and self-improvement. These celebrations can last as long as a week, and those gathered to celebrate are encouraged to dress in their best. Their newly emancipated ancestors were noted as removing their rags, and throwing them in the nearby streams or fields. They replaced their old rags with new, fine clothing they had taken from their previous masters. Symbolically, they removed their old life and were clothed in a new life of abundance and potential.
Juneteenth Celebration In Society Today
Raised in the South as a young, white woman, I had not heard of a Juneteenth celebration until I was nearly thirty years old. At the beginning of the 19th Century, workloads, coupled with the Great Depression, halted the extravagant celebrations marking this event. As time went on, history books were revised, and the history of Juneteenth was withdrawn. The date of the Emancipation Proclamation was all that was left to mark the end of slavery – leaving out nearly three years of history, and the history of slavery that lasted hundreds of years in the United States.
However, many communities and African American churches have in recent years begun fanning the flame of Juneteenth, working to bring back the celebrations that mark this crucial point in the growth of human dignity in the United States. These celebrations can be as small as a personal dinner or luncheon, or as large as a music festival, city-wide march, or week long celebration.
Should I Celebrate Juneteenth?
African Americans celebrate the freedom from oppression their ancestors received, and the Juneteenth celebration includes continued education and spiritual growth of their people. It is also worth celebrating our freedom from being oppressors.
Being an oppressor in our nation’s history is not something noteworthy, nor should it be remembered in monuments, or held up to a place of elevation or pride. Becoming free from that role, however, is something that should absolutely be celebrated, and the continued education and growth of all people should be at the forefront of our minds. In this way, we can ensure that equality and healthy relationships between all people can be encouraged and strengthened, especially in the current political climate.
America has not always been great, and there is great bravery, character, and strength in admitting that. There is always room for growth in our Nation, and it begins with us; by building relationships between people of different cultures, races, and backgrounds, and creating a society based on mutual respect and love, our nation will be on the road to truly becoming great.
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