We hope you will be celebrating Juneteenth safely and joyfully!
If you are looking for an additional way to celebrate, please join us in remembering Dr. Sammie Mae Dortch, co-founder of Off The Pews.
The Origin of Juneteenth
“Juneteenth” is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19th that the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news the war had ended and the enslaved were now free. Note this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order.
Attempts to explain the two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded no results. It has been speculated the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on plantations. This would have helped the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest.
The reactions to this profound news ranged from shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former "masters"—attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenge of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for Black people in America.
The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The “Juneteenth” celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. “Juneteenth” continues to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.
Excerpted from https://www.juneteenth.com, First printed NAUW Newsletter June 2019
UPDATE: If you were unable to attend the virtual event live, you can watch the recording here.