Happy Juneteenth! This past year, I have been blessed enough to be educated by Southern communities on tradition, diversity, and culture. With growing up in the Midwest, I am familiar with the lifestyle and culture we were fed but was unable to learn further. I consider Juneteenth as the ‘Lacuna’ in our history books; or the missing piece.
Juneteenth is otherwise known as the “African American Independence Day.” We all know that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on the first day of January in 1863. This was a document signed by Abraham Lincoln declaring all slaves were to be freed. However, once this document was signed, the word did not get out. Unlike current times, we did not have twitter, facebook, social media, news sources, or other fast traveling word. Instead, it was spread on foot and through powerful positions. News could take weeks, months, or more to reach the recipient. Talk about patience!
Slaves were declared free on the first of January, but it was not until the 19th of June that word touched base in the South. Union General Gordon Granger sent a hefty number of troops to Texas to announce the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and to free the slaves in captive. The Union learned about this historical day months after it was actually established! On this day in Texas, over 250 thousand slaves were freed! Thus, leading Texas to make Juneteenth a state holiday! It is not for sure how many slaves were initially freed throughout the Union, but the numbers, as you can imagine, would be outstanding.
During slave times, it was against the rules for slaves to dress up in formal clothes. Therefore, this holiday is traditional formal and includes African Americans dressing to their best for this occasion. We have also seen Juneteenth being celebrated through large cookouts and jazz festivals. As we know, this is not a common holiday for the Midwest; it is primarily celebrated in the South.
After learning about such an event, I have made it my goal to someday attend a Juneteenth celebration. We can all celebrate America’s Independence Day on July fourth, but it is a special holiday for the those that identify from African American descent. So here is to Juneteenth; we are thankful for freedom, a progressive nation, and the speedy news we have today!