This week, Juneteenth was celebrated all across the nation! Awareness about what Juneteenth is and its significance continues to spread domestically and internationally.
What is Juneteenth?
According to the History Channel, Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House two months earlier in Virginia, but slavery had remained relatively unaffected in Texas—until U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free, signaling freedom for 250,000 enslaved people. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. That December, slavery in America was formally abolished with the adoption of the 13th Amendment. The year following 1865, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what became the annual celebration of "Jubilee Day" on June 19. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday, enacted by the Biden Administration.
For additional context, as per the Charlotte Equal Rights Congress (1989) on the origin of Juneteenth:
"Juneteenth is an almost forgotten holiday in Negro History. Sometimes called "Negro Nation Day," Juneteenth represents the end of slavery and the continuing struggle for freedom.
Juneteenth is celebrated as Independence Day, yet the Declaration of Independence of 1776 had no intention of including slaves, women, or freemen without property.
On June 19, 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the first act prohibiting slavery in the territories. But real freedom did not come on that day, nor on January 1, 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation officially ended slavery in the South.
The Emancipation Proclamation had no effect in Texas because so little of the state was occupied by Union troops. The slaveholders on the cotton plantation of east Texas took advantage of this and didn't tell their slaves the war was over and that they were free.
The slaveholders had all of their money tied up in crops which needed to be worked. It was not until two months after the end of the war that on June 19, 1865, when Union troops landed on Galveston, Texas, that the end of slavery was enforced.
June 19 or "Juneteenth" came to be celebrated in the Negro folk tradition of Texas as Emancipation Day. Its observance spread to other parts of the South (as the individuals made aware of their freedom migrated to other areas)."
According to this excerpt from the Charlotte Post in 1989, the first official Juneteenth celebration took place in Charlotte in 1977 and was hosted by the Charlotte chapter of the Equal Rights Congress, a national organization that had been very involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The annual celebration being forecast in the article would be the organization's 12th. The event details a full weekend celebration complete with keynote speakers, several musical acts, awards, a march, a rally, a variety show, a Juneteenth King & Queen contest, film showings, human rights discussions, and plenty more.
It's unclear to me at this point when the Charlotte Equal Rights Congress stopped hosting its annual event. But in 1997, Senegalese businessman Pape Ndiaye created the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas after realizing there was no large centralized celebration that welcomed participants from across the state, according to the Charlotte Observer. At one point, the festival was held at Independence Park in Elizabeth and drew crowds of nearly 20,000 people. It was held there for many years before moving to its current location in Plaza Midwood near the House of Africa, owned by Ndiaye.
Today, there are many Juneteenth celebrations around the city, such as Durag Fest and others, giving residents several options to express pride in their heritage and for all to learn more about this truly important event in our nation's history, as well as its cultural significance today.
Also of significance and somewhat coincidental: I think its interesting that Juneteenth (6.19) and the year that marks the beginning of race-based bondage (chattel slavery) that would come to define the African, and thus the African-American experience in America (the year 1619) share nearly the same digit order.
Until next week!
"Juneteenth Freedom Day," The Charlotte Post, June 1, 1989, Section B, page 1.
"What is Juneteenth?" by Elizabeth Nix, History.com, June 19, 2015.
"When did Charlotte's Juneteenth celebrations start? How have they changed? Our timeline." by Alexandra Karlinchak, June 19, 2021.
Email email@example.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” - James Baldwin