What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is an early African American holiday celebrating the time in 1865 when black people learned of their freedom and began leaving the plantations in East Texas.
The official date of Juneteenth is June 19th, in remembrance of the day in 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, announced and began enforcing the slavemaster’s mandatory release of enslaved black people there. By the late 1800s the ex-enslaved in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and other southwestern states were commemorating “freedom’s arrival” in the teens of June with an annual celebration they referred to as “Juneteen.” Over the years black descendants have evolved the pronunciation to Juneteenth.
In Macon, enslaved black people became “freedmen” somewhere between April 20, 1865, when Macon was surrendered at Tattnall Square Park to the troops of Union Army General Wilson; and July 1865, after a formal proclamation of slavery’s ending had been made from the Bibb County courthouse and the U.S. Freedman’s Bureau arrived to provide assistance to formerly enslaved black people.
Although many freed persons found living on their own so difficult that they returned to plantations, began sharecropping and thousands died of illness and starvation, there was yet great rejoicing among newly freed black people across the south. The news of slavery’s end finally arrived well over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued September 22, 1862 and went into effect January 1, 1863. Commemorating and celebrating Juneteenth today gives black people strength in gaining knowledge of their history, endurance, ancient and modern culture. It enlightens new generations of their ancestor’s struggle and blessings of a priceless legacy, amazing accomplishments amidst overwhelming adversities.
Juneteenth also reminds Black Americans of their urgent work today to break the chains of mental and economic slavery, substance abuse, ignorance, self-hatred, chronic role in the syndrome of white supremacy/black inferiority and spiritual death. It brings to the forefront our inescapable requirement for healing, unity, ending the disease of killing ourselves to reap the fruits of the future.
“God is love, I said, but art’s the possibility of forms, and shadows are the source of identity.”
“Words of Emancipation didn’t arrive until the middle of June so they called it Juneteenth. So that was it, the night of Juneteenth celebration, his mind went on. The celebration of a gaudy illusion.”
“But what a feeling can come over a man just from seeing the things he believes in and hopes for symbolized in the concrete form of a man. In something that gives a focus to all the other things he knows to be real. Something that makes unseen things manifest and allows him to come to his hopes and dreams through his outer eye and through the touch and feel of his natural hand.”
“Nothing ever stops; it divides and multiplies, and I guess sometimes it gets ground down superfine, but it doesn’t just blow away.”
— Ralph Ellison, the novels Juneteenth and Invisible Man