Many people are well aware that slavery ended in 1863 while the bloody Civil War tore apart the United States. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official January 1, 1863 freeing enslaved black people in the south. But what some may not have known is that every enslaved black person was not informed they were free around the same time.
It took nearly two years for an estimated 250,000 enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas to know, which is a hella long time by the way. This is where Juneteenth comes from. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and Union Soldiers came to Galveston to inform the enslaved that they were now free. There were so few Union soldiers in Galveston, that the Emancipation Proclamation couldn't be enforced contributing to the delay.
Where's There's Racism, There's Conspiracy
Over time people began to believe some foul play was involved. You know ... because of racist white people. There is this one conspiracy theory that claimed a messenger was murdered while on the way to tell the people of Galveston. And there is another one that claims that slave owners deliberately withheld the news to get some free labor for old time sake from the already freed black people. But the best one, in my opinion, is the theory claiming Union Soldiers and slave owners conspired to keep black folks working to produce one more cotton harvest.
You Get a Cookout, She Gets a Cookout, Everybody Gets a Cookout
Even with the lingering BS, there is a real reason to celebrate. Rodeos, fishing, barbecuing, baseball and strawberry soda become synonymous with Juneteenth. The holiday focuses on education, remembering black struggle and triumphs and self-improvement to inspire future generations.
Black Power Led to Juneteenth Resurgence
By the 1900s, the vibrant Juneteenth celebrations died out and the little know history of the holiday's origins was mostly erased. It wasn't until Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s when the rich history of Juneteenth was restored in the black consciousness. After the 1968 Poor Peoples March to Washington D.C. led by Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Juneteenth celebrations reemerged in areas nationwide.
Juneteenth is More Than an Episode on Atlanta
Although it was a great episode and today is the perfect day to run it back, you don't have to go to Texas to celebrate. Fire up the grill, throw up your fist and educate the youth. The same way we get lit for 4th of July, Juneteenth should be celebrated as well.