How Did Juneteenth Get Started?



Every year on June nineteenth, millions of people across America. Come together to celebrate June eighteenth with parties parades, prayer, breakfast and golf tournaments, cookouts and music. The holiday is now officially recognized in forty seven states plus Washington DC though it hasn't been made a national holiday yet, despite having been around for more than one hundred and fifty years. We spoke with Paula Austin a professor of African American Studies and History at Boston University. She said You'd be surprised. There are many students who get to my class, and they sort of never learned about the history of enslavement. They've never learned about the civil rights movement. I think I've had students who because of where they're from, or their families know about June eighteenth, and of actually participated in the celebrations, but most students come, and they don't know. But let's go back to the beginning on June nineteenth eighteen, sixty, five more than two months after confederate general Robert e Lee surrendered to ulysses s grant at APP Maddix which all, but ended the civil war, a US army officer by the name of Major General Gordon Granger. In Huston Texas with two momentous announcements, the end of the civil war, and with it the end to slavery. Nobody is quite sure why it took so long for news of summation to reach Texas several stories have been told throughout the years though none has ever been confirmed including one of an earlier messenger who was killed on his way to Texas to tell the news of freedom. Others believe that some enslavers truth, but simply continued going about business as usual. The most likely is simply that there were not enough troops to enforce the emancipation proclamation whether enslaved people knew about it or not, so things remained status quo. That is until Major General. Grainger showed up. After granger's announcement, some of the two hundred fifty thousand freed people in Texas, immediately left for the promise of true freedom in the north, while others traveled to rejoin family members one formerly enslaved person, Molly Herrell said in the slave narratives of Texas. We all walked down the road singing shouting to beat the band. Others stayed defined pain work in the fields elsewhere. That day marks what is now often called lack independence day, or the fourth of July. It's the American celebration of freedom from slavery. June teen was first observed in Texas in eighteen, sixty six. It wasn't officially recognized as a holiday in any state until Texas did so in Nineteen, seventy nine. Since then only North Dakota South Dakota and Hawaii have declared a holiday. In recent years both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate have formally recognized June nineteenth as June, tenth Independence Day. Various movements to grant the day status is a national holiday are ongoing. US Senator Cory Booker said in two thousand eighteen. On this day we must confront ugly parts of our history and honor the slaves who suffered and died under a repressive regime. We must also pay tribute to all those who had the strength and conviction to fight to end slavery and keep our Union together. June teeth independence. Day is also an important moment to recognize how far we've come and take note of how far we have yet to go. Certainly during the original June eighteenth, there was still a lot of work to be done. It came just months after the civil war ended and two years after the emancipation proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery, had been passed by Congress was well on its way to being ratified by the states, but the fourteenth and fifteenth guaranteeing equal protection and the right to vote to all citizens, regardless of skin color were still a couple years off. And not all enslaved people in Texas were immediately freed some held by defiant plantation owners were not emancipated until much later, some formerly enslaved people who tried to leave historical reports show were tracked down and killed. Many more stepped into a future of poverty, fear and uncertainty. Austin suggests that many Americans ignorance about June eighteenth stems from a disinclination to completely face the country's past slavery, and it's far reaching and continuing aftermath. Still? June eighteenth has persevered. Its observance has waned through the years under the oppression of Jim Crow laws and attitudes, but the festivities that began in Texas eventually spread to more states and the idea of commemorating block independence picked up through the civil rights era of the nineteen sixties, and the parties continued today. Austin, said the kinds of celebrations that I've seen and been a part of have been incredibly wonderful there about black culture there about black history there about the resistance and the resilience of the black community. Several years before grainger made his do nineteenth declaration in Galveston famed American Orator Frederick Douglass himself formerly enslaved, spoke to an abolitionist group in New York about the fourth of July. As being dave independence, and how it didn't fit for all Americans, he said what the American slave is your fourth of July I answer a day that reveals to him more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. Opel Lee a former schoolteacher counselor in Fort Worth. Texas has been instrumental in trying to get June. Tenth recognized as a national, holiday. This year she'll walk from the Fort Worth Convention Center to the will. Rogers Coliseum, leading a caravan, urging people to sign a petition for the cause leave who is ninety three years old has been part of the Fort Worth June eighteenth festivities for more than forty years. Last year, it's as important as the fourth of July. In fact I dream some day. They celebrate from the nineteenth to the fourth like they do Mardi Gras. I haven't dreamed as large as the Rose Bowl or the macy's parade, but I'm getting there. To those who observed June eighteenth despite its shaky beginnings, and it's still unfulfilled pledge the day still holds the promise of freedom, independence, equality, ideas, and ideals always celebrating.

Coming up next