A Brief History of Juneteenth
The Emancipation Proclamation effectively freed American slaves in January of 1863, though in many cases, this fantastic news did not reach the slaves themselves. Things stayed as they were in highly confederate Texas, in particular. It wasn't until more than two years later, in June of 1865, that Union soldiers reached the far southern town of Galveston, Texas, and took control of the state, finally and truly freeing Texas slaves. Those Union soldiers entered Galveston on June 18th and officially delivered the news of the slaves' freedom there on the 19th, therefore the word "Juneteenth" was created to encompass this entire historic event. The holiday was mainly celebrated in Texas until the 1980s, when other states began recognizing its profound significance. Today, the June 19th celebration of African American freedom and togetherness is considered an official holiday in most states. It’s celebrated with all sorts of activities, including barbecues, block parties, rodeos, picnics and family reunions, nationwide.
Anything goes for this African American Independence Day of sorts. The key ingredients are food, family and your own your brand of fun. Following are a few ways to add deeper meaning to your freedom celebration:
- Strong Words Take inspiration in the uplifting and powerful words of famous African Americans, such as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King, Jr. Designate a few minutes at your gathering for a specially chosen reading.
- Family First Slavery often split up families, and the lucky ones were reunited following the events celebrated by Juneteenth. Honor family bonds with stories and photo albums. Track down gaps in the family tree. Snap a family photo to preserve the day for future generations.
- Celebrate with Song Music was an important part of slave life that eased the burden of work, entertained during free time, and helped maintain hope and faith during worship. Carefully craft your event's background music. Compile a mix or playlist featuring classic gospel, work or recreation songs—or all three.