Commentary: Juneteenth History

  • Published
  • By Ebony Burgess
  • Tinker Black Heritage Council

Juneteenth is a celebration to honor those who made sacrifices and their contributions to Black Americans. Celebrated annually June 19, Juneteenth offers an opportunity to educate and raise awareness about the history of slavery, the struggles endured by African Americans, and the ongoing fight against systemic racism.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was put in place in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, Texas became a stronghold of Confederate influence in the latter years of the Civil War as the slaveholding population migrated to the state. Rather than destroy his army and sacrifice the lives of his soldiers to no purpose, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865.

As the Confederacy began losing the war, Texas became a refuge for enslavers to keep those they had enslaved. Texas was the westernmost Confederate state and one with little U.S. Army presence since there was little fighting. More than 250,000 enslaved people were forced to move to Texas.

When Union forces reached Galveston, Texas, U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger performed a public reading of General Order Number 3 June 19, 1865, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

In 2021, Juneteenth was officially declared a federal holiday in the United States, further solidifying its significance and the importance of acknowledging the legacy of slavery. This national holiday empowers individuals to engage in conversations, advocate for equality, and work towards creating a more just society. The holiday is marked by various activities such as parades, picnics, musical performances, historical reenactments and educational events, fostering a sense of community, unity and pride.

The Tinker Black Heritage Council’s mission is to facilitate, collaborate, promote, and support the identification, collection, and documentation, and dissemination of the Black Heritage Culture to the Tinker Air Force Base community. The BHC seeks to preserve and present Black History and Culture while promoting Diversity & Inclusion. The goal of BHC is to seek opportunities for the presence and exposure of Black Heritage with Dignity. The BHC values a standard of excellence, greatness, professionalism and integrity while supporting and expressing respect for all heritages.

For more information visit the Tinker Black Heritage Council Facebook page or email tinkerbhc5@gmail.com