Juneteenth is a celebration of the true birth of freedom in the US. It’s even been called our “second independence day.” For those whose ancestors suffered under the yoke of slavery, it’s a day to remember the strength of their spirits and the triumph of their hope.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863. For many of those enslaved, the word was immediate and their freedom secured by the Union soldiers who held those areas in the South. But areas held by the Confederate Army continued to be strongholds of slavery and the freedom a distant hope for those enslaved. It would take nearly two and a half years for freedom to come to all. The news of the proclamation and the end of the war reached Texas on June 19, 1865.
The establishment of a celebration for that momentous day became known as Juneteenth. It was a time for those who had suffered under slavery to gather and remember the day their freedom came. Juneteenth also became a celebration of culture and a new way of life. Many former slaves left not only the plantations but also the south and were establishing new lives in other areas. Juneteenth served as a reminder of how far they had come as well as the work that lay ahead of them.
Today Juneteenth remains a day of celebration. Food is shared, achievements are acknowledged and respect is encouraged. As the struggle for real equality continues, the reminder of our past inequality is so very important to keep in mind.