What is Juneteenth?

As if the public health emergency concerning COVID-19 was not causing enough grief, anxiety and emotional turmoil, Americans are now experiencing additional distress concerning the recent deaths of African American citizens in police excessive force incidents.  Many people are coming to recognize this as a pattern of use of excessive force by law enforcement embedded in a culture of institutional racism.  People are demanding change.   These events have generated strong and widespread feelings of anger, grief, and disappointment.  They have mobilized massive demonstrations, protests, political rhetoric, and in some instances, additional violence.  Such events and the ensuing social unrest are testing Americans in many ways,  including our emotional resiliency and wellbeing.

 

These events have prompted some Americans to re-examine their knowledge of the history and events that have led to the current state of heightened awareness of institutional racism and the legacy of human enslavement.  Many Americans do not know there is an awareness and learning opportunity this Friday, June 19.  It is called Juneteenth and many awareness activities this week will commemorate it.  Juneteenth is a blending of the words June and nineteenth.  It is the oldest known celebration of the end of the institution of human slavery in the U.S.

Enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation

Juneteenth marks the arrival of U.S. General Gordon Granger to Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 to ensure the freedom of all enslaved people in the former Confederacy.   This was over two months after what many consider the end of the Civil War- Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, VA. This event came two and ½ years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863.  It was limited in scope to places under Confederate control, where it had little practical effect and not to slave-holding border states that remained loyal to the Union.  As a remote area, Texas had no large-scale fighting or presence of Union troops during the war.  Slavery had continued there and many additional slave owners from nearby states moved to Texas to escape the enforcement of the emancipation of their slaves.

Was this the end of the Civil War?

The arrival of General Gordon and the announcement of General Order No.3 which granted freedom to over 200,000 enslaved people in Texas marked the birth of Juneteenth.  Some historians say this was the end of the Civil War. One year after this event, Texas freedmen organized the first annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19.  In 1980, Juneteenth was designated as an official holiday in the state of Texas. Georgia recognized the holiday in 2011. Today, 47 states consider Juneteenth as a state holiday.  There have been continuous efforts to make Juneteenth a national, Federal holiday.

 

Here are some resources to learn more about Juneteenth.

 

Resources:

https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm

https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth

https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/

 

About Espyr

Espyr’s innovative coaching and assistance programs have been helping employees and organizations achieve their full potential for 30 years. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.