Saturday, June 16, 2012

Juneteenth - Freedom Day

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday honoring African-American heritage and commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas in 1865.

Celebrated on June 19, the term is a combination of June and nineteenth, and is recognized as a state holiday in 36 states.

The holiday originated in Galveston, Texas; for more than a century, the state of Texas was the primary home of Juneteenth celebrations, and since 1980, Juneteenth has been an official state holiday in Texas History

Though President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863. It had minimal immediate effect on most slaves’ day-to-day lives, particularly in Texas. Texas was resistant to the Emancipation Proclamation, and though slavery was very prevalent in East Texas, it was not as common in the Western areas of Texas, particularly the Hill Country, where most German-Americans were opposed to the practice.

Juneteenth commemorates June 18 and 19, 1865. June 18 is the day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived inGalveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. On June 19, 1865, Granger read the following declaration:

‘The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.’

On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, the newly freed slaves held large public celebrations and so the tradition was started to celebrate future Juneteenth activities.

Here, in Buffalo, NY the celebration of Juneteenth is held for two days every June. This year it is today and tomorrow (June 16th and 17th). It starts with a colorful, joyful parade. Thousands of people attend the event in MLK Park, which has music, plenty of good food, vendors selling African jewelry and clothing. There are booths from many local agencies such as the NAACP, Urban League, Health Services. The tradition is an important part of local history and enjoyed by all that attend.


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