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5 Juneteenth Facts We Should All Know

The term "Juneteenth" became familiar to me only in my adulthood. I never learned of this day in any history class growing up; although, the Emancipation Proclamation (the official order freeing slaves) was taught. The reason is because I'm a North Carolinian and Juneteenth is primarily a Texas holiday. There are facts about this day that many people do not know of.

1. Texas Kept Slaves After They Were Freed

President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but apparently Texas didn't get the memo that slaves were free until 2 years later, when Union soldiers brought the news on June 19th 1865. They claim it was because Texas was one of the very remote slave states, and therefore it took some time for them to get the memo.

2. There are Rumors About Texas' Delay

Some believe the story about Texas being too remote is a load of crap. Rumors have come up saying Texas officials knew of the emancipation but kept it a secret because they wanted to reap a few more benefits from slave labor. Some say that the messenger who was sent to deliver this message was captured and murdered before he could complete the task. Others believe the President didn't have enough influence on Texas and they were blatantly defying him. None of these stories have been confirmed and that topic has remained a "maybe this is what happened."

3. Juneteenth is Actually a Huge Celebration

Many former slaves even came back to Galveston, Texas (where they were first told of their freedom) each year to celebrate Juneteenth, as well as their descendants, as time went on. They had carnival-like set ups for games, food, entertainment, and more. African Americans in other states began joining in on this tradition and celebrated every June 19th with joy and gratitude. It became an annual summer tradition for all African Americans who knew of it.

4. There Was Drama Celebrating Juneteenth Publicly

If in 2020 we are still dealing with the ugly aftermath of slavery, imagine back in the 1860s/70s when a large group of African Americans gathered. Things were segregated and though they were "free", African Americans were still seen as a nuisance by many who opposed equal coexistence. So you bet there were issues each year black people got together for Juneteenth. We all know how racists feel about black people gathering today, imagine back then when they were allowed to be openly racist. Some people did not like that slavery was abolished, much less seeing former slaves celebrate their freedom in public.

5. It Only Became an Official Holiday 115 Years Later

In 1980, a whopping 115 years since Texas learned slaves were free, June 19th was made an official Texas State holiday - thanks to African American legislator, Al Edwards. Although each year prior to 1980 African Americans gathered to celebrated this day in music, prayer, laughter, food, and joy, they were merely using their first amendment right to peaceful assembly. Since it was declared an official Texas State holiday, Africans Americans in Texas (and largely nationwide) now celebrate this day as America celebrates 4th of July.

If you are looking for ideas on how to celebrate Juneteenth at home, at work, or in your community, click here:


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