On this day in 1865, slaves in Texas were informed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, that they were freed.
The word "Juneteenth" is a promanteau, or combination of words and in this case, events. On June 18th, the Union took control of Galveston, Texas from the Confederates. On June 19th, General Gordon Granger read aloud from the steps of the Ashton Villa declaring the slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Today Junteenth is celebrated nationwide. Festivities range from rodeos to barbeques to baseball, imbibed with a spirit of history, family and prayer.
Published in the National Republican on June 19, 1865, T.M. Chester, an African-American living in Richmond, VA, described to President Andrew Johnson the state of black Americans at the war's end.
"It is therefore with sorrowing hearts that we are compelled thus to acquaint your Excellency with our sad disappointments, for our present condition, is in many respects, worse than when we were slaves and living under slave law. Under the old system we had the protection of our masters who were financially interested in our welfare. That protections is now withdrawn, and our old masters have become our enemies, who seek not only to oppress our people, but thwart the designs of the Federal government and of Northern benevolent associations on our behalf. We cannot appeal to the laws of Virginia for protection, for the old negro laws still prevail; and besides the oath of a colored man against a white man will not be received in our State courts, so that we have no where to go to for protection and justice but to that power which made us free...
However sad our hearts be over the present state of affairs, we have lost none of our faith in, our love for the Union, or for yourself as Chief Magistrate, and therefore as oppressed, obedient, and loving children, we ask your protection...
And in conclusion, let us respectfully remind your excellency of the sublime motto, once inscribed over the portals of an Egyptian temple 'Know all ye who exercise power that God hates injustice.'
2013 Juneteenth Celebrations
Winston Salem, NC
The Story of Ralph Ellison's unfinished novel Juneteenth