Commemorating Juneteenth

June 18, 2021

By Anvi Kevani

“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.” —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

June 16, 2021, the Unites States Congress overwhelmingly voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, which commemorates the independence of slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865, when the union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that all 250,000 slaves were free by decree, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863.

Unfortunately, Juneteenth, a very important and significant date for African Americans, and for all Americans to recognize and commemorate, is not taught in our schools, nor is it mentioned in many of text books, even though 47 states have officially recognized it, with Texas being the first to commemorate it as a state holiday in 1980.

In order to learn more about Juneteenth, below is a suggested reading list:

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

From the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, which challenged Americans’ perception of the founding father because of his exploitive relationship with Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman on his plantation, comes a book that sheds light on the history of slavery in America, leading up to the events that culminated in Juneteeth. In this series of essays, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Gordon-Reed weaves together American history and her own family history and eloquently pays tribute to the integral role of Blacks in shaping Texas.

Juneteenth Texas : Essays in African-American Folklore

Learn the origins of some of the cultural traditions and legends associated with this joyful occasion by exploring its Texan roots.

Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, by Deborah Willis  and Barbara Krauthamer

In their pioneering book, Envisioning Emancipation, renowned photographic historian Deborah Willis and historian of slavery Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photographs–some never before published–from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery and a way to understand the photos as documents of engagement, action, struggle, and aspiration.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis

Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms.

Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom, by Charles A. Taylor

JUNETEENTH: A Celebration of Freedom’ effectively conveys the jubilation that occurred on June 19, 1865 when African American people in Texas were the last to be freed from the horrors of U.S. slavery, a full two months after the end of the Civil War and more than two years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Dr. Taylor’s 32-page book, full of colorful illustrations, archival photographs, and historical documents, makes the information about Juneteenth accessible for readers aged ten and up.

Juneteenth: Freedom Day, by Muriel Miller Branch

Provides the story of how this holiday, marking the Emancipation Proclamation, spontaneously began on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, and grew from there into a nationwide celebration of freedom among African Americans.

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