Today marks the 155th anniversary of the date when Union Army Major General Gordon Granger stood in Galveston, Texas, and announced to the enslaved Americans in Texas they were free.
In the past, I held a disdain for the celebrations on this date because I could not understand why we would celebrate a day when our African-American ancestors were “given” something that never should have been denied them – freedom.
However, now, I know that I was misguided because I had not sought information beyond what I was taught in Texas public schools. In 2012, I discovered the truth when I visited the African American Civil War Memorial (http://www.afroamcivilwar.org) in Washington, D.C., and read specific wording in the Emancipation Proclamation.
It clearly stated that the Proclamation provided the freedom to the enslaved Americans in the seceding states once those states were conquered and had surrendered to the Union Army.
For that reason, 200,000 African-American men, those who had escaped slavery and those who were born free, joined the Union Army despite the threat of immediate execution if taken prisoner by the Confederate Army.
They did so to ensure that the Union Army defeated the traitorous Confederate Army to win the Civil War so their enslaved brothers and sisters would be freed.
In essence, African-American men fought courageously and won the freedom – it was not “given” to our ancestors.
Even though General Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, the last battle of the Civil War – Battle of Palmito Ranch – was fought in Texas on May 12 and 13, 1865. Texas was conquered, at this point, and the state was occupied by the African-American Union troops that helped defeat it. The enslaved Americans in Texas discovered their freedom one month later. The conditions of the Emancipation Proclamation had been satisfied, and freedom had been won.
It was an enlightening and proud moment for me to learn these facts, which had never been taught in school. Through my quest to always seek knowledge, I moved from disdain to pride in this date and its significance to my people, my state, and my country.
Juneteenth is not just a holiday for African-Americans but ALL Americans. It is the date that our country decided to live up to our declaration that ALL men are created equal.
So, during this COVID-19 pandemic, I will celebrate with a good friend. We will attend together via Zoom, a virtual tour, and presentation at the National Museum of African-American History & Culture. https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/celebrating-juneteenth
I will proudly reflect on the journey and contribution of The Ancestors from 1619 to today.
How will you celebrate Juneteenth?