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Juneteenth: Remember and Celebrate Freedom Day

History of Juneteenth

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What is Juneteenth?

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, announcing that those who were slaved “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free,” but the proclamation didn’t immediately apply in certain areas, including secessionist states like Texas, which had left the Union and joined the Confederacy during the Civil War.

It took another two years for the news to be enacted in Texas. The Civil War ended in April 1865 and two months later, on June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas, with Granger saying, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Slavery was formally abolished after Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution nearly six months later, on Dec. 6, 1865. Freed slaves marked June 19 the following year, kicking off the first celebration of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is also known as Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Juneteenth Independence Day or Juneteenth National Freedom Day. Texas was the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. The late Rep. Al Edwards of Houston, a Democratic congressman, wrote and sponsored a bill calling for "Emancipation Day in Texas" to be recognized as a "legal holiday." He filed Bill 1016 in February 1979 and it passed in the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate the following May. Texas Republican Gov. William Clements signed the bill in June 1979 and the bill officially went into effect on Jan. 1, 1980. Continue reading from NBC Today

Emancipating Galveston, TX

In Texas, slavery had continued as the state experienced no large-scale fighting or significant presence of Union troops. Many enslavers from outside the Lone Star State had moved there, as they viewed it as a safe haven for slavery. After the war came to a close in the spring of 1865, General Granger’s arrival in Galveston that June signaled freedom for Texas’s 250,000 enslaved people. Although emancipation didn’t happen overnight for everyone—in some cases, enslavers withheld the information until after harvest season—celebrations broke out among newly freed Black people, and Juneteenth was born. That December, slavery in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment. Continue reading from The History Channel

June 2021: Juneteenth Becomes National Holiday

The House voted 415-14 to make June 19, or Juneteenth, a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., the first new federal holiday created by Congress in nearly four decades. Cheers broke out across the House chamber late Wednesday, as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Texas), the bill's sponsor, read the final vote tally. The Senate unanimously passed the bill Tuesday, and President Biden will sign the bill into law on Thursday afternoon, according to his schedule. The law would give the day the same status as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and other federal holidays.

Congressional leaders from both parties said that establishing the holiday was an important gesture in recognizing those who suffered under American slavery and as an act of racial reconciliation. Juneteenth would be the first federal holiday to be created by Congress since 1983, when lawmakers designated the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in honor of the slain civil-rights leader. Juneteenth—also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day and Jubilee Day—marks the 1865 date when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with federal troops in Galveston, Texas, and issued an order freeing the nation's last slaves. The ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December 1865 abolished slavery throughout the entire country. Continue reading from Wall Street Journal

How to Talk to Children about Juneteenth

You might not want to explain Juneteenth to kids if you don’t want to explain slavery to them. It may be too scary a topic for kids that aren’t old enough—and while children’s ability to understand and manage that kind of information varies, it’s safer to not start until they’re closer to 6 or 7 years old. However, if children who are younger raise the issue, there are ways to explain it to them that won’t cause anxiety.

I like to reference a TED Talk by author and scholar Beverly Daniel Tatum called “Is My Skin Brown Because I Drank Chocolate Milk?” The way she explained it to her son (who asked the question that became the title of her talk) was: A long time ago, before there were companies, stores and buildings, there were some people who needed to work the land in the United States. There was a need for smart, strong workers—and they went to Africa and brought them to the United States against their will which wasn’t OK. They were people but they were called slaves. Those people made them work, but never paid them and they were never allowed to leave the plantations where they worked; it was very unfair. But there were also good people who were working to end slavery, Black and White people, and they were eventually successful. Of course, this is an abbreviated version and you may need to add many more details, but you will have at least covered many of the main issues. Continue reading from Pittwire

Books About Juneteenth

Link to Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations by Nicole Taylor in the Catalog
Link to On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed in the Catalog
Link to Juneteenth by Emily Dolbear in the Catalog
Link to Juneteenth For Mazie by Floyd Cooper in the Catalog
Link to The Juneteenth Story by Alliah Agostini in the Catalog
Link to What Is Juneteenth? by Kirsti Jewel in the Catalog
Link to Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free by Alice Faye Duncan in the Catalog
Link to Juneteenth by Lynn Peppas in the Catalog
Link to Juneteenth by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson in the Catalog
Link to Celebrating Juneteenth by Jodi Jensen Shaffer in the Catalog
link to Juneteenth by Van Garrett in the catalog
Link to The Night Before Freedom by Armand in the catalog

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"We are not makers of history.  We are made by history" - Martin Luther King, Jr.