Juneteenth: Our REAL Freedom Day

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

The 4th of July is NOT my Independence Day. Every year, just like any other holiday, Juneteenth comes and goes. It breaks my heart that some of us know about it, while others don’t. Then again, the same could’ve been said about the Emancipation Proclamation. 

As Tupac once said in one of my all-time favorite songs from him, Words of Wisdom, “Lincoln just said that to save the Nation!” I couldn’t agree more, as the slaves in the South weren’t even informed they were free until June 19, 1865. You read that right! That’s TWO years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, with the intention of the effective date to be January 1, 1863.

Of course, in good ol’ racist fashion, no one informed the slaves of the Confederate South. The beliefs of Confederacy were that in the moral integrity of slavery. Which basically means that they believed we were inferior to them. But hey, the flag is a good symbol though, right? Imagine you’re in prison and you’ve completed your sentence and no one tells you for a few years. That’s what it was like for the “last slaves” in Texas. 

With the news of General Lee’s surrender in April 9, 1865 moving much slower than usual, it didn’t reach Texas until May of 1865. The end result being, on June 18, 1865, more than 2,000 Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas. The very next day, General Granger stood on the Ashton Villa and read aloud the “General Order No.3”, which stated that the 250,000+ “last slaves” were now free. It is said that the Emancipation Proclamation had little to no impact in Texas due to the lack of Union soldiers there to actually enforce the new Executive Order. 

Ashton Villa, from whose front balcony General Order #3 was read on June 19, 1865

The US saw a decline in the celebration in the once major holiday in the early 20th century, as the national celebration of Independence Day was just a few weeks later on July 4th. Moreover, the preference of white historians to emphasize the Emancipation Proclamation over Juneteenth as a date to mark the end of slavery ‘til this day.

This is one of the many reasons why I celebrate Juneteenth, as it is the OFFICIAL day slavery ended. What the 4th of July means to the white American is what Juneteenth means to us – FREEDOM. To our ancestors who have went through the inhumane institution of bondage, thank you for demonstrating pride in the legacy of resistance and perseverance you left us. We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams, and I truly feel that we carry that resistance and perseverance with us today.

General Orders No.3 was read aloud to citizens of Galveston on June 19, 1865 by Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger.

You can celebrate by hosting a dinner or cookout with friends and family or even the community. Bring your stories, bring your laughter and good vibes and share them with each other. Be PROUD of your existence and light that you shine upon others. Bask in the glory of each other’s company and remember the songs that our ancestors sang. Lift every voice and sing as the night grows young.

Songs to start your Freedom Day off right:

1). Nina Simone - To Be Young, Black & Gifted

2). Kendrick Lamar - Alright

3). Marvin Gaye - What's Goin' On?

4). Curtis Mayfield + The Impressions - People Get Ready

5). Beyonce ft. Kendrick Lamar - Freedom

6). Lift Every Voice & Sing (OUR National Anthem)

Resources: NJCLC, Wikipedia & New Orleans Online