Discover the truth behind common myths surrounding Juneteenth, the commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved people. Explore the historical significance, inclusivity, and ongoing relevance of Juneteenth as a symbol of freedom, equality, and the fight against racism.
“The Celebration of Juneteenth” sheds light on the myths and misconceptions that have surrounded the commemoration of Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day.” The article emphasizes the significance of the celebration while aiming to clarify the historical event it honors. It explores the evolution of these myths, which have been perpetuated through repetition without fact-checking, and have even been endorsed by politicians.
The article begins by explaining that the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, addressed slavery only in the Confederate States during the American Civil War. The proclamation aimed to prevent England, which had already abolished slavery, from supporting the pro-slavery Confederacy. It was on June 19, 1865, that General Granger of the Union Army issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas, announcing the freedom of all slaves in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation.
The author then proceeds to debunk ten common myths associated with Juneteenth. These myths include:
General Order No. 3 Ended Slavery in the United States: The order only enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and did not end slavery nationwide; that was achieved with the 13th Amendment in December 1865.
Slaves in Texas Learned of Their Freedom on June 19, 1865: Most slaves in Texas were aware of the Emancipation Proclamation well before that date, but the state’s affiliation with the Confederacy prevented immediate compliance.
A Messenger Carrying News of the Emancipation Proclamation Was Killed: This myth, used to explain the previous myth, lacks credibility, as there was no need for a Union messenger to deliver a proclamation already communicated through other means.
Texas Was the Last Slave-Holding State: While Texas was the last Confederate state to free its slaves, Delaware, Kentucky, and certain parishes of Louisiana continued to practice slavery until the 13th Amendment was ratified.
President Lincoln Issued General Order No. 3: President Lincoln had no involvement with General Order No. 3; it was issued by Major General Francis J. Herron and assigned to Major F.W. Emory.
General Order No. 3 Was Read from Ashton Villa: There is no evidence that the order was publicly read from Ashton Villa; it was issued from the Osterman Building, and distribution was carried out through handbills, newspapers, and telegraph.
Celebrations Occurred Throughout Texas on June 19, 1865: The order was announced in Galveston on that date, but celebrations would have been limited and news did not reach all former slaves immediately.
Juneteenth Is the Oldest Celebration of Emancipation in the United States: Watch Night, held on December 31, 1862, precedes Juneteenth as a vigil anticipating the Emancipation Proclamation. Furthermore, Juneteenth was poorly observed during the early 20th century due to racist policies.
Everyone Was Always Welcome at Juneteenth Celebrations: Originally called “Freedom Day,” the event focused on voting rights and excluded women and children. Women’s participation increased after the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.
Juneteenth Was First Celebrated on June 19, 1866: The first Juneteenth celebration occurred on January 1, 1866, commemorating the three-year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Myth 11: Juneteenth is only celebrated in Texas While Juneteenth has deep roots in Texas, it is not limited to the state. Over time, the celebration has spread to other parts of the United States, and today it is recognized and observed in various states across the country. As awareness of Juneteenth has grown, so too has its popularity and recognition outside of Texas. The significance of Juneteenth as a symbol of freedom and the end of slavery resonates with people across different regions and communities.
Myth 12: Juneteenth is solely a Black holiday Juneteenth is often associated with the African American community, as it commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black people. However, it is important to recognize that Juneteenth is not exclusively a Black holiday. The celebration of Juneteenth has become more inclusive, with people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities joining in to honor and acknowledge the importance of freedom for all. Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and justice, which extends beyond racial boundaries.
Myth 13: Juneteenth is just another day off or a party While Juneteenth is an opportunity for celebration and commemoration, it is much more than just a day off or a party. It holds historical and cultural significance as a time to reflect on the struggles and achievements of African Americans throughout history. Juneteenth provides a platform to educate and raise awareness about the legacy of slavery, the fight for civil rights, and the ongoing work towards racial equality. It is an occasion for community gatherings, discussions, artistic expressions, and acts of solidarity.
Myth 14: Juneteenth marks the end of racism and inequality Although Juneteenth represents a pivotal moment in the history of emancipation, it does not signify the complete eradication of racism and inequality. While slavery was officially abolished, its legacy continues to impact society in various ways. Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the progress made and the work that still needs to be done to address systemic racism, promote social justice, and ensure equal opportunities for all individuals. It is a call to action to confront and dismantle the systems that perpetuate racial disparities.
Myth 15: Juneteenth is no longer relevant today Some may argue that Juneteenth is a historical event that has little relevance in contemporary society. However, the continued observance and recognition of Juneteenth emphasize its ongoing significance. It serves as a reminder that the struggle for freedom, equality, and justice is not a thing of the past. Juneteenth encourages dialogue, education, and activism to address racial inequities and foster a more inclusive and equitable society for all.
In conclusion, the celebration of Juneteenth carries immense historical and cultural significance. While various myths have emerged around this commemoration, it is important to separate fact from fiction to truly understand and honor its origins. Juneteenth represents the emancipation of enslaved people, symbolizing the ongoing struggle for freedom, equality, and justice. By dispelling these myths and embracing the true history and meaning of Juneteenth, we can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for this important holiday.