About the Juneteenth Festival Committee, Inc.
"If this part of our history could be told in such a way that those chains of the past, those shackles that physically bound us together against our wills could, in the telling, become spiritual links that willingly bind us together now and into the future, then that painful Middle Passage could become, ironically, a positive connecting line to all of us whether living inside or outside the continent of Africa."
- Tom Feelings
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger read the, "Emancipation Proclamation" that belatedly brought about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. The tidings of freedom reached slaves gradually as individual plantation owners read the proclamation to their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. As word spread, rejoicing began.
Large celebrations began on June 19, 1866. Shortly thereafter the celebration of that day was coined, "Juneteenth" and featured prayer service, inspirational speakers reading the, Emancipation Proclamation", food games and dances.
The celebration of June 19 as, Emancipation Day spread from Texas to neighboring states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Florida as African-Americans migrated from Texas. In the beginning, little interest was shown in the celebrations outside of the African-American community and most were held in rural areas around rivers and creeks that could provide additional activities such as fishing, horseback riding and barbecues.
Juneteenth, as it is celebrated today, observes the freedom of African-Americans while encouraging self development and respect for all cultures. It is a pride filled day of reflection and renewal. It is a moment taken to appreciate the African_American experience and is inclusive of all races,, ethnicity's and nationalities.
Juneteenth is a day on which honor and respect is paid for the sufferings of slavery. It is a day on which we acknowledge its evils and its aftermath. It is a day that we talk about our history, realizing that because of it, there will always be a bond between us.
On Juneteenth, we think about that moment in time when the enslaved in Galveston, Texas received word of their freedom. We imagine the depth of emotions, their jubilant dance and their fear of the unknown.
Juneteenth is a day that we commit to each other the needed support as family, friends and co-workers. It is a day that we can build coalitions that enhance African-American economics.
On Juneteenth, we assemble young and old to listen, learn and to refresh the drive to achieve. It is a day we can all take one step closer together - to better utilize the energy wasted on racism. Juneteenth is a day that we pray for peace and liberty for all.