Friday, June 19, 2015

2015 Juneteenth Celebrated with Joy, Sorrow, and Courage

One hundred and fifty years ago today, General  Gordon Granger arrived in Texas with the news that the war was over and slavery was abolished.

Ashton Villa, Galveston
(Author's photograph)
On June 18, 1865, Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. On June 19, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3", announcing the total emancipation of slaves:

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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Juneteeth has become
an international celebration
 (Author's photograph)
This event has resulted in the worldwide celebration of Juneteeth.

In 1979 Juneteenth became a state holiday thanks to the efforts of State Representative Albert (Al) Edwards of Houston.  By 2008, nearly half of US states observed the holiday as a ceremonial observance. As of May 2014, when the Maryland legislature approved official recognition of the holiday, 43 of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, a day of observance. States that do not yet recognize it are Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

In 1996 the first legislation to recognize "Juneteenth Independence Day" was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.J. Res. 195, sponsored by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). In 1997 Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56. In 2013 the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 175, acknowledging Lula Briggs Galloway (late president of the National Association of Juneteenth Lineage) who "successfully worked to bring national recognition to Juneteenth Independence Day", and the continued leadership of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church
(Author's photograph)

Today's celebration is muted in the aftermath of the murder at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This vicious act by a deranged gunman illustrates the impact of hate on the community, city, state, country, and world. The church has a long history and has survived many man-made and natural threats and we know that it will not let this terrible act silence its voice.   Hate is a flaw in our nature that refuses to be conquered by knowledge and compassion. Yet we strive to eradicate this cancer in our DNA.  Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims of this atrocity. Yet, "deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome some day."

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