Juneteenth National Independence Day!
This Saturday, June 19th will be 156 years since the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, TX learned of their freedom from the horrid institute of slavery in 1865. After 246 years since the day English privateer ship White Lion made landfall at Point Comfort in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 – short on supplies and eager to sell their “cargo” of seized Africans from Portuguese slave ship Sao Jao Bautista; Juneteenth commemorates a day many Americans at the time could never imagine would come.
Although, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1, 1863, freedom was not imminent for most African Americans until Confederate soldiers surrendered in April of 1865, then officially with the passing of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery on December 18th of the same year. Unlike today’s instant access to information, spreading the news of slavery’s abolishment took months for the nation to absorb. In Florida the news was received on May 20th of 1865 when Union Brigadier General Edward M. McCook made a stop in Tallahassee at the Hagner House (known today as the Knott Museum) declaring all African Americans were now free citizens of the United States.
“No one is free, until we are all free” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Many enslavers would withhold the information until after harvest season, especially in Texas where there was no significant presence of Union soldiers. As the Civil War raged on in other states, many slave holders sought solitude and sanctuary in the Lone Star state as they saw it as a “safe haven” for their current way of life. It was not until June of 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with almost 2,000 Union troops to announce the Civil War had ended.
“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 hired laborer.” – General Gordon Granger
With new liberation from their enslavers’ subjugation, African Americans in Texas established the celebratory commemoration of Juneteenth – also known as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day. As families migrated from Texas to other parts of the country, so did the Juneteenth tradition. It was not until 1980 that Juneteenth became an official holiday in Texas, with Florida following in 1991 and 45 more states thereafter.
Though this day has been overlooked and omitted by many history books, on Thursday, June 17th President Joe Biden signed into law, a bill unanimously passed by the US Senate officially recognizing June 19th as Juneteenth National Independence Day! This will be the nation’s 12th federal holiday.
Here are a few local family friendly events to help celebrate Juneteenth this weekend:
Annual Juneteenth Celebration: Knowing and Remembering – Winter Park, FL
Celebrate Juneteenth at Bronze Kingdom Museum – Orlando, FL.
Juneteenth at Barker Park Farmers – Orlando, FL.
Jazz on the Lawn. A Juneteenth Celebration – Orlando, FL.