JUNETEENTH – A STORY OF FREEDOM
The first of “Watch Night” services took place on the eve of January 1, 1863. That night saw the gathering together of both enslaved and free African Americans in churches and private homes all over the country. The wait was for the news that the Emancipation Proclamation has come to be.
All the wait came to an end when the clock struck midnight. All enslaved people in the Confederate States became legally free. Plantations and cities in the South saw Union Soldiers many of whom were black match into them reading out from pamphlets the Emancipation Proclamation. The news of freedom spread around like wildfire. The Thirteenth Amendment brought an end to slavery throughout the United States.
As it was, not everybody became free immediately. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 could not immediately be implemented in the Confederate States. This made it impossible for the slaves in the westernmost Confederate State of Texas to be free until much later.
The wind of freedom finally blew on June 19, 1865. Union Troops consisting of 2,000 soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. These men announced that by executive decree, the over 250,000 enslaved black people were free. A name was appended to this day by the newly freed people. It came to be known as “Juneteenth”.
Things took a new dimension from there as formerly enslaved people took their destinies in their hands during the Reconstruction (1865 – 1877). They had with them great hope in the face of uncertainty and immediately began to lay the foundation for a great future.
First, there is Independence Day and then there is Juneteenth; a day set aside to commemorate our own independence. We didn’t give up in over 200 years of enslavement and we aren’t giving up now. Despite social injustices, police brutality, and underfunded communities, African Americans continue to make history. We are a long way from equality be we have the power of freedom to fight for what’s right.