Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were freed. The word, however, did not reach Texas and slavery remained relatively unaffected there — until U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3 on June 19, 1865.
General Orders No. 3: “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.”
The name “Juneteenth” is a blend of two words: “June” and “nineteenth.”
What an amazing day to celebrate freedom. Freedom is what our nation is founded upon. We celebrate our nation’s freedom on the Fourth of July. But there is no pure freedom unless we are all free. That is why we celebrate Juneteenth as well.
Juneteenth is a day of remembrance. We celebrate our freedom and mourn the lives lost in slavery. We remember just how far the African American community has come. We celebrate our victories and look toward the future.
There are festivities all around the area. I volunteer with the Underground Railroad Museum, which is hosting a Juneteenth celebration with the City of Wheeling, the YWCA and other organizations.
Wheeling, W.Va., is known as the last stop for slavery. So, the celebration will be all weekend. There will be dancers and a Henry “Box” Brown reenactor. Henry “Box” Brown was a slave who escaped to freedom by mailing himself in a crate to an abolitionist in Pennsylvania.
The celebration will conclude on Juneteenth with speakers at the former slave auction block in Market Square. Freedom is freedom and it can be celebrated by anyone. Also, you can celebrate however you see fit. There are celebrations all over the country.
Before Juneteenth was a federally recognized holiday, I would just take the day and do simple things my ancestors could not do. I would go to a restaurant, sit at the bar and eat. In the 1960s that was unheard of.
Simple freedoms can easily be taken for granted. The life I have today my ancestors could only have dreamed about. I hope you all have a wonderful Juneteenth!