FOSTERING COMMUNITY BLOG
Juneteenth is the national celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, the Union soldiers landed here in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.
This was already two and a half years AFTER President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official back in 1863. But due to Texas' minimal number of Union troops to enforce this Executive Order, slavery continued. Finally, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, resistance was overthrown and slavery ended in Texas.
One of General Granger’s first orders was to read to the people General Order Number 3, which begins with:
"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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."
This day of shock and realization of freedom, turned into an annual day of rejoicing, reflection and prayer. In the early years, June 19th - referred to as "Juneteenth" - was mostly celebrated by the African American community. There was often resistance to these celebrations, so they had to take place in rural areas or on church grounds. But as more African Americans started to become land owners, land was donated and dedicated for the festivities.
Years later, classroom and textbook education started placing less emphasis and detail on the lives of former slaves. Textbooks often claimed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 as the end of slavery, and left out the impact of General Granger’s arrival on June 19th. And due to economic and cultural pressures, such as the Great Depression, Juneteenth celebrations declined. But on January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition. Edwards has since actively sought to spread the observance of Juneteenth all across America.
Today, more and more organizations, businesses and communities are starting to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth. It is an important time for our country to acknowledge American history, educate ourselves and others, promote African American culture and achievement, and strive for continued improvement.
Although this historic achievement happened so long ago, we know there is still so much work to be done in the continuous battle against racism and inequality, even to this day. Especially as we recently watched George Floyd laid to rest here in our city - over 150 years after Juneteenth began in our city. Houston Angels honors and celebrates this day, and we stand in solidarity with the African American community. We will always strive to educate ourselves, and celebrate diversity and inclusion in our city and within our own services. And we will always fight to empower this community to succeed.
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