The Nuanced History Of A Joyful Celebration

Fist raised
Leslie Taylor-Grover
May 16, 2021

Had it been anywhere else besides Galveston, Texas, the news that enslaved people were now free would have seemed strange. After all, it was June 19, 1865 – 2 and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation! But there WAS something strange about the event that would eventually become known as “Juneteenth.”

The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually free our people from enslavement! It only applied to Confederate states during and immediately after the Civil War, and was largely unable to be enforced. 

News of the end of slavery didn’t make it to places like Texas until much later – and that was mostly on purpose.

Enslavers waited as long as they could to announce that slavery was over. Many of them waited until after the harvest, and some even murdered our people rather than let them go free! And yet, there is still something amazing about that day.

It inspired our people to claim the freedom that was rightfully ours! By the next year, Black people had purchased land around the country upon which we celebrated Juneteenth free from white violence, such as Emancipation Park in Houston, TX. Those celebrations continue today.

When it comes to our liberation, we have always been met with white pushback. We must never forget how powerful our celebrations of joy and freedom can be – on Juneteenth and every other day!

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