Juneteenth: US commemorates end of slavery

Monday, June 19th, 2017
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Citizen Journalism Project (CJP)

New York, June 19

Cities across the United States celebrated the Juneteenth over the weekend with various events to commemorate end of slavery. 2017 marks the 152nd anniversary of Juneteenth, which many say is the oldest known celebration commemorating the moment on June 19 152 years ago when more than 200,000 Texas slaves found out about their freedom, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Both Afro-American community and others remember the moment by taking part in county parades, festivals, picnics, African-American heritage exhibits, food festival, reenactments, concerts and more.

What is Juneteenth ?

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

 

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the en-slavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question   For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

 

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