Juneteenth: Parades, barbecues and festivals commence nationwide

Two girls with sashes and crowns smiling at camera

Mariah Walker and Whitley Tucker, both Miss Black El Paso, joined in Juneteenth celebration in northeast El Paso, June 2013. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, JUNE 19: Prayer services, gospel concerts and barbecues nationwide celebrate the oldest known commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States: Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day.

Note: Be sure to check schedules early for local celebrations—many cities are hosting Juneteenth events prior to June 19.

President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, followed by the end of the Civil War, but white Texans remained resistant to freeing slaves. Due to the minimal number of Union troops present in Texas, slavery continued in the state until June 18, 1865—the day General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops marched into Galveston and took possession of the state. The following day, General Granger read General Order No. 3 before a crowd including elated former slaves. Formal celebrations for “Juneteenth” began almost immediately.

Did you know? The term “Juneteenth,” grammatically a portmanteau of the word “June” and the suffix of “Nineteenth,” was coined in 1903.

Just one year following General Granger’s reading of General Order No. 3, freed former slaves had gathered enough money to purchase land for Juneteenth gatherings and celebrations. (Church grounds were also popular for gatherings.) Emancipation Park in Houston and Austin are examples of remaining properties purchased by former slaves. (Learn more history from Juneteenth.com.) In its early years, Juneteenth was a time for family members—some who had fled to the North and others who had traveled to other states—to reunite with relatives who stayed behind in the South. Prayer services have long played a major part in the celebrations.

Hosting a barbecue or other Juneteenth celebration? Find recipe ideas at Multi Cultural Cooking Network and NPR.

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Categories: National Observances

Juneteenth Independence Day: U.S. Senate establishes title as events expand

Group of African-American singers under white tent

A Gospel choir sings for a Juneteenth celebration in Maryland. (Photo by Elvert Barnes, courtesy of Flickr)

SUNDAY, JUNE 19: Barbecues and street fairs, gospel concerts and prayer services take place across the nation today in celebration of the oldest known commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States: Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day.

NEWS: Last year, the U.S. Senate established the 19th of June as Juneteenth Independence Day. Juneteenth is now an official observance in 43 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

June doesn’t mark the Emancipation Proclamation itself; instead, this holiday recalls the date, more than two years later, when slaves in Texas were finally freed and former Confederates were forced to recognize the Proclamation.

Though slaves had been freed more than two years earlier under President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in the deep South had felt minimum impact.With the surrender of General Lee in April 1865, Northern forces were now strong enough to overcome resistance in the South. On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops reached Galveston, Texas, to enforce emancipation. And on June 19, Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No.3.” The Order read, in part:

Group of African American men and women in formal dress, black-and-white photo

Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas, on June 19, 1900. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with the Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

In reaction to the news, men and women who had been enslaved danced in the streets. Some immediately left their former masters in search of freedom or to find family members. The next year, freedmen organized the first annual “Juneteenth” celebrations in Texas, using public parks, church grounds and newly purchased land for the jubilant parties.

Did you know? Juneteenth celebrations declined in the early 20th century, but came back into favor during the Civil Rights movement. In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas.

Many of the largest Juneteenth celebrations today can still be found in Texas (though not far behind are those in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis, Minnesota). The most established Emancipation parks—bought by some of the first freed slaves of the South, specifically for large June 19 gatherings—are still thriving today.

Did you know? Juneteenth is a linguistic portmanteau, meaning that it is a blend of words. It fuses “June” and “Nineteenth.”

Major institutions such as the Smithsonian and Henry Ford Museum have begun sponsoring Juneteenth activities, and in many areas, portions of General Order Number 3 are read. Juneteenth has, from its beginnings, focused on education and self-improvement, and celebrations often include public readings of the writings of noted African-American writers and singing.

Barbecued chicken on the barbecue

Photo by thebittenword.com, courtesy of Flickr

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Looking for more?

Learn the history of Juneteenth from the Library of Congress and PBS.

Recipes fit for the day are at Betty Crocker and American Food Roots.

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Categories: National Observances

Juneteenth: Celebrating 150 years of America’s end-of-slavery commemoration

African-American women at a table with purple t-shirts that read 'Juneteenth'

Women at a 2013 Juneteenth celebration. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FRIDAY, JUNE 19: It was a sweltering day 150 years ago in Galveston, Texas, when Union soldiers—led by Major General Gordon Granger—landed, with news and an announcement: The war had ended and the enslaved were now free.

Though slaves had been freed more than two years earlier under President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in the deep South had felt minimum impact. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April 1865, Northern forces were now strong enough to overcome resistance in the South.

On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger publicly read General Order Number 3, which read, in part:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with the Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

In reaction to the news, men and women who had been enslaved danced in the streets. Some immediately left their former masters in search of freedom or to find family members. (Check out PBS for more.) The next year, freedmen organized the first annual “Juneteenth” celebrations in Texas, using public parks, church grounds and newly purchased land for the jubilant parties. (Wikipedia has details.) Juneteenth became an occasion for prayer, family reunions, shared outdoor meals and public readings. Celebrations attracted larger crowds for many years, until looming economic and cultural issues of the early 20th century caused a decline. Juneteenth came back into favor during the Civil Rights movement, and in 1980, it became an official state holiday in Texas.

Peacemakers-cover-3D-120x180Did you know? Prior to emancipation, sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke—daughters of a slaveowner— fought for complete abolition of slavery. Read about the sisters in Daniel Buttry’s Interfaith Peacemakers, or in Sue Monk Kidd’s 2014 bestseller, The Invention of Wings.

Today, Juneteenth is observed across America with Miss Juneteenth contests, parades, barbecues, traditional foods and outdoor games.  (Find recipes here.) Major institutions such as the Smithsonian and Henry Ford Museum have begun sponsoring Juneteenth activities, and in many areas, portions of General Order Number 3 are read. Juneteenth has, from its beginnings, focused on education and self-improvement, and celebrations often include public readings of the writings of noted African-American writers and singing. (Learn more from AmericasLibrary.gov.) Currently, 43 states—along with the District of Columbia—recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or day of observance.

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Categories: National Observances

Juneteenth unites with 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Black-and-white photos of small group of African Americans in fancy, turn-of-the-century dress

Attendees of a Juneteenth celebration in Texas, June 19, 1900. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, JUNE 19: Two pivotal events in history, inextricably intertwined, converge today: It’s the 50th anniversary year of the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Juneteenth.

Labeled as the “single most important piece of legislation passed in 20th-century America” by Clay Risen, author of The Bill of the Century, the Civil Rights Act did, undoubtedly, change the future of America in countless ways. Yet what is less talked about is how many of the youth involved in demonstrations and campaigns for the Civil Rights Act likened their challenges to those of their ancestors: Student demonstrators in Atlanta in the early 1960s wore Juneteenth freedom buttons. Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and Nineteenth, has come to be celebrated in almost every state in America, with cultural festivals, summer fairs and delicious foods. Many associate Juneteenth with freedom, African American achievement and a deep respect for all groups and cultures.

Did you know? Most early Juneteenth gatherings had no place to call their own, so church grounds often offered space for celebrations.

The events of Juneteenth began in 1865—two years after President Abraham Lincoln had announced the Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the announcement of freedom for slaves in 1863, many slaves in the the South had seen little difference in their day-to-day duties. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the situation changed in Galveston, Texas. On that fateful day, Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston and publicly stressed that the enslaved were now free.

As Major General Gordon Granger and Union soldiers arrived, on June 19, 1865, and Granger read aloud the General Order Number 3: “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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

Freed men and women celebrated in the streets at General Granger’s proclamation: Some immediately packed their bags to head North, while others stuck around in their newly freed homeland. (Read more at Juneteenth.com.) Some traveled to other Southern states to reunite with family members. Juneteenth celebrations began just one year after General Granger’s announcement, on church grounds and by freedmen who had pooled their money to purchase land for the parties. Juneteenth festivities reigned strong for decades, and despite a decline in the early 20th century, a resurgence emerged after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the 1968 March to Washington, D.C. (Wikipedia has details.)

Texas marked Juneteenth as an official state holiday in 1980; as of last year, 43 U.S. states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or a special event.

JUNETEENTH:
BARBECUES, RODEO
AND STRAWBERRY SODA POP

Dress, food and other Juneteenth customs were cemented from the start, as the earliest freedmen—who had never had experienced the freedom to dress as they pleased—would don fine attire for Juneteenth celebrations. Rodeo, fishing, barbecue and games of baseball have long been popular activities for Juneteenth; speakers and prayer services have inspired crowds in between the festive events. Food has always been center of Juneteenth celebrations, too, with specialty dishes and, in particular, strawberry soda pop. In some places, the Emancipation Proclamation is read and songs are recited, such as Lift Every Voice and Sing and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Miss Juneteenth pageants have become popular in recent years.

RECOMMENDED ON TV:
‘FREEDOM SUMMER’

PBS American Experience Freedom SummerMark your calendar now for the June 24 debut of the PBS American Experience documentary, Freedom Summer, which tells the dramatic story of the tidal wave of college students, clergy, musicians and other activists who converged on Mississippi in the fateful summer that also included the murders of three of those students. PBS has set up this website to learn more about the documentary.

ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm previewed the documentary and writes:

“If you think you know the story of the civil rights movement and the milestones reached in 1964—think again! Few chapters of the civil rights movement are as misunderstood as what happened in the deep South in the summer of 1964. For example: A terrible 1988 feature film, Mississippi Burning, gave the impression that the FBI roared into Mississippi to solve the murders of three college students in that fateful summer.

“In fact, the FBI was skeptical of helping at all, as this new PBS documentary proves as it plays a few archival audio clips involving President Lyndon Johnson and FBI director Herbert Hoover. Hoover dismissed the civil rights activists as ‘Communists’ and Johnson wanted to suppress the explosion of activity that arose in Mississippi in 1964.

“This documentary includes some amazing ‘finds’ in terms of the photos, film clips, audio clips and other archival materials brought to light for viewers. One of the most indelible portions of the two-hour documentary is the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, who every American should learn about in our public school history classes. This is must-see TV—filling in a wealth of essential stories about the hard-fought journey toward civil rights that continues to this day.”

IN THE NEWS:
ANNIVERSARY OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hold hands and wave at crowds while walking down a street

Many have pointed out that without the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Barack Obama would not have been elected. Above, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave at crowds during the inaugural parade. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Events have been in full swing for the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act for months, as is evidenced by the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit in April. Recently, former President Bill Clinton spoke on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the University of Minnesota, where he relayed its vital significance both in history and today—including the opinion that neither he nor President Barack Obama would have been elected without it. (Click here to read the contents of the Civil Rights Act.)

From PBS to Fox News to The Wall Street Journal, the Civil Rights Act anniversary has been making national headlines. In this article, it’s pointed out that although the Civil Rights Act seems an inevitable passage today, that was hardly the case 50 years ago: in fact, before Lyndon B. Johnson moved into presidency, little was expected on the Civil Rights front. It was the combined pressure from thousands of men and women nationwide that finally made the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a reality.

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Categories: National Observances

Juneteenth: Oldest celebration of slavery’s end still marked with music, prayers, festivals and barebecues

One day after taking control in Galveston, Texas, General Gordon Granger—on June 19, 1865—stood on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa and read the contents of “General Order No. 3” enforcing the nation's Emancipation Proclamation.

One day after taking control in Galveston, Texas, U.S. General Gordon Granger—on June 19, 1865—stood on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa and read the contents of “General Order No. 3” enforcing the nation’s Emancipation Proclamation. Photo by N Saum, released for public use in Wikimedia Commons.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19: Gospel concerts, prayer services and barbecues nationwide celebrate the oldest known commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States: Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day.

Despite President Abraham Lincoln’s issue of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, followed by the end of the Civil War—white Texans remained resistant to freeing slaves. Due to the minimal number of Union troops present in Texas, slavery continued in the state until June 18, 1865—the day General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops marched into Galveston and took possession of the state. (Wikipedia has details.) The following day, General Granger read General Order No. 3 before a crowd including elated former slaves. Formal celebrations for “Juneteenth” began almost immediately.

Although Juneteenth recognition has had its share of ups and downs over the past century, festivals have been growing rapidly since the 1980s. In Galveston, the center of Juneteenth, this year’s events—multiple Gospel concerts, a prayer breakfast, historical reenactments, a music festival and more—last for almost a week. As of 2012, Juneteenth was recognized by 42 of the United States and the District of Columbia; the term “Juneteenth,” grammatically a portmanteau of the word “June” and the suffix of “Nineteenth,” was coined in 1903.

Just one year following General Granger’s reading of General Order No. 3, freed former slaves had gathered enough money to purchase land for Juneteenth gatherings and celebrations. (Church grounds were also popular for gatherings.) Emancipation Park in Houston and Austin are examples of remaining properties purchased by former slaves. (Learn more history from Juneteenth.com.) In its early years, Juneteenth was a time for family members—some who had fled to the North and others who had traveled to other states—to reunite with relatives who stayed behind in the South. Prayer services have long played a major part in the celebrations.

As Juneteenth approaches its 150th year, Juneteenth.com offers news and information on events across the globe. Got a photo of your local Juneteenth celebration? Submissions are currently being accepted for the Juneteenth 150th Anniversary Yearbook.

Hosting a barbecue or other Juneteenth celebration? Find recipe ideas at Cinnamon Hearts or from Betty Crocker.

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Categories: International ObservancesNational Observances