By Ethan Vo |
January 1st, 1863 is also known as “Freedom’s Eve” to many. Once the clock struck midnight, all of the enslaved people in the Confederate states had their prayers answered. Both free and enslaved African Americans came together in churches and homes all over the nation awaiting the news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. When news broke, Union soldiers marched onto plantations and into cities all across the south, reading copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, spreading the good news of freedom.
However, even with the Emancipation Proclamation passed in 1863, not everyone was free. States that were still under Confederate control did not uphold the proclamation. Therefore, the Confederate state of Texas, the furthest Confederate State to the west, were the last to free their slaves. It was not until June 19th, 1865, when General Granger and his army arrived in Galveston Texas. Many of the Union soldiers, who were also African American, informed the state’s residents that slavery has finally ended.
This news was met with great cheer and celebration from people all around the state. A year later, the first official Juneteenth celebration took place in Texas. Early celebrations involved family gatherings, prayers, and singing of spirituals. Later, annual pilgrims to Galveston by former enslaved people and their families took place. Also, in 1872, 10 acres of land in Houston was bought by a group of African American ministers and businessmen to create Emancipation Park, designed to hold annual celebrations.
During the year 1979, Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth as a holiday. Today, all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, recognize the holiday. Also, on June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday.
Today, celebrations still take place, whether it be small gatherings or city wide events. Here in Riverside, the 3rd Annual Juneteenth Celebration at Fairmount Park will take place on June 17th from 1 PM till 6 PM, and admission is free. There will be live performances, spoken poetry, educational workshops, and vendors selling food, crafts, and other merchandise all in celebration of African American culture and history.