D7 Commemorates Juneteenth

To commemorate Juneteenth—the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of slavery ending in the United States—D7 takes this opportunity to speak up and create better dialogue in our community. Like all of you, we are heartbrokenly the events taking place across our world. So, the question we pose is this, “How do we begin to diminish this darkness?” Well, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to this same darkness, and he shared these lasting words with us. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Today as we honor the rich legacy of African American freedom and celebrate Black culture, we listen to the voices of our young people in their gift of Chris Rice’s song “Go Light Your World”. Originally performed at the City of Spartanburg's Unity Breakfast in 2017, this song is still an encouragement to us all. Time and time again our students come together as abiding example of what it means to advocate for right over wrong, to promote peace and justice, to honor humanity, to live with hope and love - to be a light when darkness is ever present. There is a light inside of all of us that has the power to make our beloved community, a better place. Let’s carry our candles and let’s go light our world.

You can learn more about this important holiday below. Educating ourselves helps shine the light on the path that is the gift we have in each other and our diversity. Let’s carry our candles and let’s go light our world.

Juneteenth dates back to June 18 and 19 of 1865. It is the oldest known celebration commemorating the abolition of slavery and emancipation of the last remaining slaves in the United States. Juneteenth may also be known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, however, we know the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation as January 1, 1863 not June 18th or 19th. Although this proclamation named the enslaved as legally free, the civil war waged on for two and a half more years. It was June 18, 1865 when 2,000 Union troops led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the emancipation of its slaves. The next day, June 19th, General Granger read to the people the executive order emancipating all remaining slaves, this day has since become known as Juneteenth.

 

What is Juneteenth and what does it celebrate? 

A day remembering the end of slavery in Texas has spread across the whole U.S., with a larger  

By Sydney Combs 

Known to some as the country’s “second Independence Day,” June 19—often called Juneteenth—celebrates the freedom of enslaved people in the United States at the end of the Civil War. 

Freedom after the Confederacy 

At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect and declared enslaved people in the Confederacy free—on the condition that the Union won the war. The proclamation turned the war into a fight for freedom and by the end of the war 200,000 black soldiers had joined the fight, spreading news of freedom as they fought their way through the South. 

Since Texas was one of the last strongholds of the South, emancipation would be a long-time coming for enslaved people in the state. Even after the last battle of the Civil War was fought in 1865—a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed—many enslaved people still did not know they were free. Some 250,000 enslaved people only learned of their freedom after Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 and announced that the President had issued a proclamation freeing them. (Explore the Underground Railroad’s ‘great central depot’ in New York.) 

On that day, Granger declared, “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.” 

With Granger’s announcement, June 19—which would eventually come to be known as Juneteenth—became a day to celebrate the end of slavery in Texas. As newly freed Texans began moving to neighboring states, Juneteenth celebrations spread across the South and beyond. 

In 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize June 19 as a state holiday, which it did with legislation. Today, Juneteenth is recognized by nearly every state, and there is an effort underway for federal recognition. 

Initial Juneteenth celebrations included church services, public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, and social events like rodeos and dances. As the Civil Rights movement gained momentum in the ‘60s, Juneteenth celebrations faded. (Learn how to cook Juneteenth cookies.) 

In recent years, however, Juneteenth is regaining popularity and is often celebrated with food and community. It also has helped raise awareness about ongoing issues facing the African-American community, including a political fight for reparations, or compensation, to the descendants of victims of slavery. 

For decades, many southern black communities were forced to celebrate Juneteenth on the outskirts of town due to racism and Jim Crow laws. To ensure they had a safe place to gather, Juneteenth groups would often collectively purchase plots of land in the city on which to celebrate. These parks were commonly named Emancipation Parks, many of which still exist today. 

Other emancipation celebrations 

Despite the holiday’s resurgence in popularity, Juneteenth is still not universally known and is often confused with Emancipation Day, which is annually celebrated on April 16. 

Just as Juneteenth originally celebrated freedom in Texas, Emancipation Day specifically marks the day when President Lincoln freed some 3,000 enslaved people in Washington, D.C.—a full eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation and nearly three years before those in Texas would be freed.