History

The Legacy of Juneteenth and Why It Is So Important to Texans

By  | 

We hate spam too, we'll never share your email address

 

 

June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, commemorates a special day for Americans, particularly Texans. Texan slaves learned that the United States government freed them, officially ending slavery in Texas and the rest of the South. This holiday is not only for African Americans but also for all Americans. Celebrate freedom this Juneteenth.

When Was the First Juneteenth?

Celebrating Juneteenth in Texas in 1900

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For Texans, Juneteenth has a special role in history. On this day in 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally arrived at the Port of Galveston, a full two years after President Lincoln signed it. Once General Gordon Granger read the order from the second-floor balcony of Ashton Villa in Galveston, the slaves officially became freemen. This news marked the first Juneteenth, which became a holiday of freedom for generations to come.

Why Did the Emancipation Proclamation Take So Long?

General_Order_No._3_-_Juneteenth_Memorial_Monument_-_Austin_Texas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though no one knows the real reason, many speculate why the news of the Emancipation Proclamation had such a long delay. Some think that the slower pace of news contributed to the problem. Though this may not be the case. Even in the time before telegraphs and telephones, one could travel across the country in less than two years.

Another reason may be that the Federal government lacked manpower in Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. Until June 1865, the number of federal troops in Confederate states may not have been enough to enforce any federal laws because the South officially did not surrender until April 1865. After the war, federal troops would have had more freedom to expand their influence across the South, including in Texas.

Is Juneteenth an Official Holiday?

Emancipation Proclamation Memorial in Austin

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you live in Texas, June 19 has been a state holiday since 1980. Though some government workers report on this day, only those with critical government jobs must report for duty. This day is not an official federal holiday, but the United States government branches in Washington D.C. do commemorate Emancipation Day on April 16. This day in 1862, President Lincoln declared all slaves in the District of Colombia freed.

Why is Juneteenth Important Today?

Juneteenth Memorial at George Washington Carver Museum in Austin

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Today, Juneteenth remains a popular holiday throughout African-American communities in Texas, but everyone can celebrate the freedom for all Juneteenth symbolizes. Anyone who has ever has worked alongside someone of another race benefits from the ending of slavery and the recognition of the human rights of all people, regardless of race.

Where to Celebrate in the Texas Hill Country

Women celebrating Juneteenth

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Austin and San Antonio both have events the weekend before Juneteenth in 2017. The Greater East Austin Youth Association (G.E.A.Y.A.) will hold a Central Texas Juneteenth parade and festival in Austin on June 17. The parade begins at 10 a.m. with the festival following at noon. San Antonio also has a Juneteenth celebration on June 16 and 17. This free festival features activities and entertainment for the whole family. San Marcos will also hold a parade and festival on Saturday, June 17.