Wendy Gladney (File photo)

In less than one week, America will celebrate Juneteenth, known to many in the African American community as Independence Day. Juneteenth did not become a national holiday until June 2021. However, it has long been recognized in our community as a day of recognition and importance.   

The evolution of Juneteenth started on June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and issued an order proclaiming all enslaved people in Texas were free.  Texas is the home state of my forefathers.  

My grandmother, grandfather, father, and various family members all hail from East Texas. To this very day my paternal family holds an annual family reunion each summer to commemorate our family and history.  

Texas was the last state to receive the enforcement of the Proclamation that declared freedom to all enslaved people in Confederate states due to the minimal presence of Union troops. Once the enslaved received notice of their freedom they began to celebrate through prayer meetings, singing, and getting together with their loved ones.   

It is documented that the first official Juneteenth celebration occurred in 1866 one year after General Ganger’s announcement. As we know it would take over 150 years before it became a national holiday, but several states began recognizing it beginning with Texas in 1980, forty years before it became recognized by the entire nation.   

Today, Juneteenth is celebrated in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, music festivals, parades, historical reenactments, educational events, cultural exhibitions, food festivals, and family reunions to name a few.  The point is to make sure that the mission and vision of Juneteenth does not hade or disappear from generation to generation.  

It is also a time to not just take time off from work, but to keep the sacrifice of our ancestors relevant and thriving. This is a perfect time to bring the history of African Americans to the forefront and the contributions we have made to not only America, but globally.  

Recognizing and celebrating Juneteenth can promote national unity by acknowledging the country’s complex and painful history and the progress made since. It serves as a platform for dialogue, reflection, and reconciliation, helping to heal racial divisions. Juneteenth represents progress and continues hope for future generations and equity for all.  

How do you plan to spend Juneteenth this year?  There are so many things you can do to make Juneteenth relevant in your life, your family, and your community.  You can start by sharing your family’s history and the truth of our history.  

My paternal grandmother is first generation born free in our family.  Her father was born enslaved and freed as a little boy. Her father went on to encourage his children to become their best and to live out their dreams in the hope of those who sacrificed their lives.   

Going through family photos, family bibles, and talking to my elders, I have been able to piece together information about our family.  Ancestry.com has also helped me fill in the missing information that I could not get from family members.   

You too can do the same to begin gathering vital information about your family. It is never too late to start.  If we do not put together the information and preserve our history, it will be lost to our children and grandchildren. 

 There is so much at stake regarding our history.  We cannot let future generations down. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”  

 Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on. 


Visit www.WendyGladney.com and www.forgivingforliving.org to learn more. Wendy is a life strategist, coach, consultant, author, and speaker.