Juneteenth: Ingenuity and Resilience in Bondage


Juneteenth. Jubilee Day. Freedom Day. Liberation Day. Emancipation Day. I image the ancestors are smiling as June 17, 2021, marks the day President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.

Juneteenth is, “The oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.” (Source)

Juneteenth’s name is a combination of June and nineteenth, the day Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas to deliver the news that the war and slavery was over.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Although American slavery officially ended January 1, 1863, 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were not aware of that fact. Historians have several theories why Texas slaveholders didn’t emancipate their enslaved people.

  1. The messenger may have been killed en route to Texas before the message could be delivered.
  1. General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander, did not accept losing the war until 1865, when he surrendered to Union soldiers.
  1. Slaveowners wanted to continue to prosper from free, slave labor.

Photo credit: Emancipation Park Conservancy

Photo credit: Wikipedia

June 19, 1866, the Black community held the first anniversary celebration with prayer service and church gatherings.

The annual celebration of Juneteenth continued with singing, pig roasts, rodeos, and other festivities.

Photo credit: Volunteer Houston

In 1872, a group of former Texas slaves raised over $800 to purchase 10 acres of land near present-day Houston for its annual celebration. It’s called, Emancipation Park, and it’s the oldest public park in Texas.

Barbecues are mainstays of Juneteenth with red-colored food (red velvet cake) and drink (strawberry soda and red punch). Red represents ingenuity and resilience in bondage. Many believe it’s attributed to red representing strength in some West African cultures.

Happy Juneteenth Day.