The flag commentating Juneteenth. Also known as ‘Freedom Day’; ‘Jubilee Day’; ‘Liberation Day’ and ‘Emancipation Day.’ It is the longest running African American Holiday in the country. It has gained the title “America’s Second Independence Day.
Two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and some time after the Civil War ended, many slave holding states did not recognize the validity or lawfulness of the Proclamation.
Texas was the most remote of the slave holding states and needed the presence of Union soldiers to enforce the Emancipation Law. In June of 1865 there were an estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas. Major General Gordon Granger Issued and read in public General Order Number 3 making slavery in Texas completely against the law.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
In 1866 Freedmen in Galveston Texas began the annual celebration known as Emancipation Day on June 19th. Celebrations were on and off in the years following. During the ‘Jim Crow’ days states and municipalities figured out ways to disenfranchise black people so celebrations almost stopped. (Sound familiar?).
As economical realities forced black southerners off the farm and into urban areas, they took the holiday thought with them. In 1938 the governor of Texas issues a new ‘order’ after 200,000 people gather in Dallas.
“Whereas, the Negroes in the State of Texas observe June 19 as the official day for the celebration of Emancipation from slavery; and
Whereas, June 19, 1865, was the date when General Robert [sic] S. Granger, who had command of the Military District of Texas, issued a proclamation notifying the Negroes of Texas that they were free; and
Whereas, since that time, Texas Negroes have observed this day with suitable holiday ceremony, except during such years when the day comes on a Sunday; when the Governor of the State is asked to proclaim the following day as the holiday for State observance by Negroes; and
Whereas, June 19, 1938, this year falls on Sunday; NOW, THEREFORE, I, JAMES V. ALLRED, Governor of the State of Texas, do set aside and proclaim the day of June 20, 1938, as the date for observance of EMANCIPATION DAY”
Modern day celebrations have begun to ‘pick up steam’. As Isabel Wilkerson points out – as people migrated from the south to large urban centers they brought Juneteenth with them. (Hawaii and South Dakota are the only states to not recognize Juneteenth)
Leave a Reply