My blood runs deep in the history of the Lone Star State of Texas. My father (b. 1939), his father (b. 1905) and his grandfather (b. circa 1880) were all born and raised in this part of the South. My paternal grandmother (b. 1905) was also born in Texas and so as you can see, my roots are firmly planted in that region of the country. As a child I remember my grandmother, Mother Dear, taking us to East Texas (Carthage) during the month of August for family reunions. We would spend time with other family members from near and far as we talked about our family history. To this day we still have a lot of family that lives throughout the state of Texas and we have land that is still in our family name.
Texas became a state in 1845 and was admitted as a slave state. The Emancipation Proclamation was official on January 1, 1863 but news of the Emancipation didn’t reach Texas until June 1865. Once Texas became a state, slavery only existed for 20 years; therefore, some people and historians identify Texas as having a short slave history. The slaves worked on cotton and sugar plantations, as well as on small farms and ranches raising cattle and corn. Even though slavery may have only been around for twenty years, the ramifications would have generational effects and repercussions.
The Emancipation Proclamation was the executive order signed by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and took effect on January 1, 1863. The order decreed that all slaves in the ten rebel Confederate states would be considered free now and forever; although the freed slaves did not receive citizenship at that time. It would take another two years before the news would hit Texas. June 19, 1865 was the date when the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas to deliver the news that the enslaved were now free. This was the birth of “Juneteenth” also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day to commemorate emancipation from slavery in Texas. What is also interesting is that the “Mascogos” of Coahuila, Mexico, descendants of Black Seminoles (the offspring of free Blacks or escaped slaves and Seminole Indians), also celebrated Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is celebrated across the country, but is recognized more in Southern states. Families celebrate the “holiday” in many ways, including family reunions, cookouts, fireworks and parades. In the early celebrations, some cities banned African Americans from using public parks due to segregation. Not so different than some of the things we experience today. Just recently a woman made headlines (and several internet memes) for calling the police on an African American family grilling in a park in Oakland, California. There are also other examples of how, even after 150 years since emancipation, Black people are still struggling with their freedom and equality.
We must not be silent about our history. Being a California girl with deep family roots in Texas, I am determined to keep the history and understanding of Juneteenth alive for my children and my children’s children. If we want to make sure our history doesn’t die we must stay “woke” and pass on this type of information to the next generation. I hope everyone had a wonderful and blessed Juneteenth!
Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on!