History of Juneteenth festival

Kai Booker

Kai Booker

Within the past few weeks there has been much chatter about the 44th Annual Juneteenth Heritage Festival in Grambling, Louisiana. 

This year’s festival is held during the week of June 12-18, 2016. In several cities surrounding Grambling, like Shreveport, Louisiana, the residents celebrate Juneteenth very hardy.   

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

It was on June 19, 1865 when General Orders, Number 3 declared that all slaves had been freed. 

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was already signed into law it is a common misconception that it was the document that actually freed the slaves. 

This document, signed into law by president Abraham Lincoln stating that only slaves in the Confederate states captured by the Union were free. 

The Thirteenth Amendment was passed in congress on January 31, 1865 and was ratified December 6, 1865. This document officially abolished the institution of slavery.  

The first Juneteenth celebration was held in Texas and despite the skulking Jim Crow Laws prohibiting blacks from celebrating in certain areas, blacks still celebrated near rivers and lakes. 

Eventually, blacks accumulated enough money to purchase land so they could have their own celebratory sites. 

Actually in 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. 

Of the 50 states that make up the United States, only 45 states recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday.

Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Institutions like the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum  and others have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities. (Juneteenth.com)

As a southern belle, it goes without saying that holidays like Juneteenth have been an avid part of my upbringing. My grandmother has always been very adamant about me knowing my history and anything that contributed to the life I am afforded. 

Holidays like Juneteenth, although not recognized by all, should continue to be beacons of hope and light. Hope is deeply rooted in the African American community because before we ever had freedom, we had hope. 

Copious numbers of my peers do not know about Juneteenth, let alone know its symbolism. This just goes to show why it is important and why we need not stop celebrating our small successes as a people.

No matter what, we do not fold and we do not give up. The strength that lies in gatherings such as this is the same strength that has carried us and will carry us for generations. 

It is comforting to know that we are not the savages, the incompetent, the ignorant, and the animals they have so dedicatedly tried to paint us to be in society. 

We are constantly overcoming these stereotypes, these racists remarks, and these shortcomings they want us to succumb too. 

Juneteenth’s humble beginnings were built on unity and that’s exactly what we need today with growing concerns in this country. 

I am proud of how far we have come. For some it may not seem like much but for us, it is deeper than roots.