What Is Juneteenth

 

 

 

It goes by many names. Whether you call it Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or the country’s second Independence Day, Juneteenth is one of the most important anniversaries in our nation’s history.

On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, who had fought for the Union, led a force of soldiers to Galveston, Texas, to deliver a very important message: The war was finally over, the Union had won, and it now had the manpower to enforce the end of slavery.

The announcement came two months after the effective conclusion of the Civil War, and even longer since President Abraham Lincoln had first signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but many enslaved Black people in Texas still weren’t free, even after that day.

That was 156 years ago. Here are the basics of Juneteenth that everyone should know.

 

What Juneteenth represents

First things first: Juneteenth gets its name from combining “June” and “nineteenth,” the day that Granger arrived in Galveston, bearing a message of freedom for the slaves there.

Upon his arrival, he read out General Order No. 3, informing the residents that slavery would no longer be tolerated and that all slaves were now free and would henceforth be treated as hired workers if they chose to remain on the plantations, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

 

Slavery did not end on Juneteenth

When Granger arrived in Galveston, there still existed around 250,000 slaves and they were not all freed immediately, or even soon. It was not uncommon for slave owners, unwilling to give up free labor, to refuse to release their slaves until forced to, in person, by a representative of the government, historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote. Some would wait until one final harvest was complete, and some would just outright refuse to submit. It was a perilous time for Black people, and some former slaves who were freed or attempted to get free were attacked and killed.

For Confederate states like Texas, even before Juneteenth, there existed a “desire to hold on to that system as long as they could,” Walsh explained to NPR.

Before the reading of General Order No. 3, many slave owners in Confederate states simply chose not to tell their slaves about the Emancipation Proclamation and did not honor it. They got away with it because, before winning the war, Union soldiers were largely unable to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in Southern states. Still, even though slavery in America would not truly come to an end until the ratification of the 13th Amendment, the Emancipation Proclamation still played a pivotal role in that process, historian Lonnie Bunch told NPR in 2013.

“What the Emancipation Proclamation does that’s so important is it begins a creeping process of emancipation where the federal government is now finally taking firm stands to say slavery is wrong and it must end,” Bunch said.

 

People have celebrated Juneteenth any way they can

After they were freed, some former slaves and their descendants would travel to Galveston annually in honor of Juneteenth. That tradition soon spread to other states, but it wasn’t uncommon for white people to bar Black people from celebrating in public spaces, forcing Black people to get creative. In one such case, Black community leaders in Houston saved $1,000 to purchase land in 1872 that would be devoted specifically to Juneteenth celebrations, according to the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. That land became Emancipation Park, a name that it still bears.

” ‘If you want to commemorate something, you literally have to buy land to commemorate it on’ is, I think, just a really potent example of the long-lasting reality of white supremacy,” Walsh said.

Nevertheless, Black Americans found a way to continue to celebrate and lift one another up. Early on, Juneteenth celebrations often involved helping newly freed Black folks learn about their voting rights, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Rodeos and horseback riding were also common. Now, Juneteenth celebrations commonly involve cookouts, parades, church services, musical performances and other public events, Walsh explained.

It’s a day to “commemorate the hardships endured by ancestors,” Walsh said. He added, “It really exemplifies the survival instinct, the ways that we as a community really make something out of nothing. … It’s about empowerment and hopefulness.”

And there’s reason to be hopeful. After literal decades of activists campaigning for change, Congress has approved Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

*This article originally from NPR found here: https://www.npr.org/2021/06/17/1007315228/juneteenth-what-is-origin-observation

 

Celebrating in Central Oregon

Formally celebrating Juneteenth in Central Oregon began in 2021 at Ponderosa Park in Bend, Oregon. From music, education, demonstrations, crafts and amazing food; Juneteenth 2021 was an amazing event. Thanks to an amazing team of organizers and a grateful community, The Father’s Group kicked off an annual event that is anticipated by all of Central Oregon. Bringing the celebration from Ponderosa Park to the largest, most well known park in Bend; Drake Park, Juneteenth 2022 is poised to be the event of the year! 

Planned by The Father’s Group and supported by many community based organizations, city government and the community at large, Juneteenth 2022 will bring entertainment acts from all over the country, education booths, traditional African American cuisine, speakers and much more! 

Juneteenth 2022’s theme was inspired by the Carnivale celebrations that take place across North, Central, and South America in countries that once held enslaved African and indigenous peoples. These events are counter-cultural and anti-colonial in their origin. They promote liberation and freedom by blending dance, food, and culture. They are celebratory, colorful, and hedonistic. There are proudly undefinable. An example of how we define our liberation.

Join us on June 18th and 19th at Drake Park!

Juneteenth 2022 brought to you by:

PO Box 5008, Bend Oregon 97708
541-749-7807
info@juneteenthcentralor.com