Across the nation, African-Americans are celebrating Juneteenth – June 19th - as the day the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Texas, making it the last state to read the document to slaves.
The Emancipation Proclamation declared freedom for enslaved African-Americans across the country, but Juneteenth cemented and sealed the deal.
Slaves in Tallahassee were freed on May 20, 1865 when Union Brigadier General Edward M. McCook announced the news at the Knott House. That’s the date the city celebrates.
Celebrations in other cities vary, but are usually marked with music, food, and fellowship. This year, two local groups are ringing in Juneteenth with rhythm and rhyme.
Della Walker Chapter #86, Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliated and Black on Black Rhyme are hosting the Juneteenth Celebration on Tuesday evening with “rhythm, rhymes, music and discussion.”
Organizers say they’ll be focusing on educating everyone about what Juneteenth is and why the date is still significant over 150 years later.
“A lot of people believe that the Emancipation Proclamation issued in 1863 just completely ended slavery and that’s not 100 percent true,” said LaToya Hunter with O.E.S. “The real story is a bit more complicated.”
The news traveled slowly throughout the south, and many slave owners were resistant to tell their slaves. Owners in New Orleans and Mississippi moved to Texas to avoid the Union and keep their slaves under free labor.
On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas and read the proclamation. In 1866, communities in Texas began celebrating the emancipation. Their day consisted of dressing up, music, and games, said Hunter.
“I think everyone should know when, why, and where their freedom was decided and what was decided about their freedom,” said Keith Rodgers, founder and CEO of Black on Black Rhyme. “They say if you don’t know your past, you’re doomed to repeat it. You’d be surprised what people don’t know until you realize that they don’t know.”
The event will also include a presentation of the Texas Emancipation Proclamation by the 2nd Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops Living History Association.
“We want to continue to educate people on important aspects of the African American experience, and include Juneteenth in those conversations when people are thinking about holidays and days that are significant, not only to African Americans but to all Americans, in relation to the African American experience,” said Hunter.