Why we celebrate Juneteenth:
Today marks the 155th commemoration of Juneteenth, a celebration of the liberation of enslaved African Americans. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger led troops to Galveston Bay Texas to share the news that the Civil War ended and to read "General Order Number 3" which made it clear that slavery had been abolished in 1863 (two years prior), with the Emancipation Proclamation.
It is important to note that President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 did not result in change for the nearly 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas and other southern states, until the surrender of General Robert E. Lee.
General Order Number 3
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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
The Juneteenth flag:
The information below is from a very informative CNN article:
"That banner with a bursting star in the middle is the Juneteenth Flag, a symbolic representation of the end of slavery in the United States.
The flag is the brainchild of activist Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF). Haith created the flag in 1997 with the help of collaborators, and Boston-based illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf brought their vision to life.
The flag was revised in 2000 into the version we know today, according to the National Juneteenth Observation Foundation. Seven years later, the date "June 19, 1865" was added, commemorating the day that Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told enslaved African Americans of their emancipation."
Symbols and meanings:
The white star represents the state of Texas and also represents the freedom of all formerly enslaved African Americans in America.
The burst represents a new beginning for African Americans.
The curvature between the red and blue represents the dawning of a new horizon.
The colors; red, white, and blue, reflect the colors of the American flag, as we are American too!
The CNN article referenced previously has a really good breakdown of the flag from its creator, so please visit that article to dig deeper.
There are many ways to celebrate Juneteenth! Celebrations have involved: pilgramages to Galveston Bay, Texas, festivals, historical readings of proclamtations and excerpts from prominent African American authors, interpretations representing African American legends, the singing of spirituals, cookouts baseball, and much more!
No Juneteenth celebration is complete without soulfood delicasies, and representation of red (strength and courage): red drinks, red velvet cake, strawberry shortcake, red beans and rice, etc.
We have plenty to celebrate! However, we have to acknowledge the fact that Juneteenth also marked the beginning of slavery in other structural ways. Once we were technically freed, other forms of slavery were enforced: Black Codes, Jim Crow, Industrial plantations, Convict Leasing, Segregation, Red Lining, Racial Violence, Police Brutality and countless other systemic tools that contribute to institutional and structural racism that exist in our country today - despite the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.
We are a resilient people who have persevered many strifes over the past 400 (plus) years. Despite it all, we have found reasons to smile, continue to excel in a plethora of fields, and relentlessly exude everything that is #BlackExcellence!
A few resources:
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
Roots - watch the mini-series and read the novel.