Join us as we reflect on Juneteenth with stories that honor the past, illuminate black culture, and commemorate living unapologetically free.
Blog and list was created by Alexis Nicholson, Carlissa Alston, Malik Greene and Brittany Smith
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, marks the monumental moment that the last enslaved people were granted liberation in Galveston, Texas in 1865. We commemorate the anniversary of the announcement carried by Union Soldiers, proclaiming independence for Black Americans on June 19th. Though the celebration has been observed in African American households and communities for many years, Juneteenth was officially recognized as a federal holiday in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of June 2021.
Starting from the beginning in Texas; where the holiday was celebrated only. This was up until word spread by way of Texans and nonnative travelers who place roots in “The Friendship” State! Texas was the first state to pass legislation to make June 19th; affectionately known as Juneteenth, an official holiday and has really served as a foundational blueprint to how the holiday should be celebrated. Amid the celebrations we as a community continue to acknowledge the past and process up to this point as explained some in this June 2001 article from the Texas Monthly:
The Civil War had been over for two months when 1,800 U.S. troops landed in Galveston in June 1865 and placed the city under martial law. Agog at the sea of blue-clad soldiers, the defeated Confederates and their black servants gathered to hear General Gordon Granger read military orders declaring “absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.” The whites in the crowd showed little or no reaction; after all, they had known about Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation for two and a half years, since the president had issued it on January 1, 1863. But the black listeners, from whom the news had long been withheld, were jubilant: “We all walked down the road singing and shouting to beat the band,” recalled one Texas freedwoman, Molly Harrell, in The Slave Narratives of Texas, a book based on a thirties-era federal oral-history project. Said another, Lou Smith: “I ran off and hid in the plum orchard and said over ‘n’ over, ‘I’se free, I’se free; I ain’t never going back to Miss Jo.'” Many freed slaves immediately left home, in what became known as “the scatter,” to find long-lost family members or to settle in the friendlier North. - Texas Monthly
“The Scatter” was 100s of decades ago and descendants are still in the process of locating their loved ones (mostly grave sites and present-day family members) to this day. As thousands each year take on the responsibility of researching and finding their families, they also take a moment to reflect on what was and what is to come. Long lasting memories are found while new ones are continuously formed.
In our families, when June arrives, we rise. Amidst Afro music festivals, barbeque meats, and open mic nights we uplift the Black community and illuminate the history of Juneteenth—a day for activism, remembrance, and celebration of Black joy and emancipation. The details may look different as each year passes, but the sentiment stays the same. We create space for courageous conversation about the value in honoring our history, and center stories of our past and present adversities. At the dinner table, we may pass around slices of red velvet cake and listen as we share responses to one of our elder’s favorite questions: how can we be better ancestors? There is almost always a parade or demonstration to support, or a spoken word piece performed to reignite our continued push for social justice, equity, and the value of hope through uncertainty.
Juneteenth is not simply a time to gather over good food and music, but a way for us to celebrate the legacy of those who set the pace for change in our communities. Juneteenth is a reminder of what once was, and a call to action for what we can become; unconditionally free.
We encourage you to continue the celebration beyond the month of June, by picking up one of these titles in our locations. #HappyJuneteenth