Juneteenth is a cultural holiday celebrating the abolishment of slavery by President, Abraham Lincoln via the Emancipation Proclamation (a document outlawing slavery) issued on September 22, 1862 to take effect on January 1, 1863. However Texas, which was part of the Confederacy was resistant to the new law and did not enforce it. Consequently, slaves knew nothing about it. Then on June 18, 1865 Union General, Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. On June 19th while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of General Order No. 3 (the proclamation) making it public to Texans that slaves were free people.
Also known as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day,” Juneteenth marks the freedom of the last remaining slaves in the United States. Today, Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th and is recognized as a state holiday (or observance) in 42 states (CA. being one of them). Similar to Kwanzaa, many families use this opportunity to retrace their roots to ancestors who were held in bondage, exchange artifacts, debunk family myths, stress responsibility and striving to be their best. Traditions also include festive celebrations filled with music, food, poetry, parades, rodeos, street fairs, family reunions, and a host of other positive activities. The celebrations had declined during the great depression – but surfaced with enthusiasm after the civil rights movement of the 60s.
The celebration this past weekend was held at LAUSD Board Member’s Marguerite LaMotte’s District 1 Field Office on Adams Blvd. It was infused with attendees reciting a Langston Hughes poem, and a Litany of Commitment, singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” participating in an African-American Culture Trivia Quiz, and of course the eating of foods that mirror a Thanksgiving meal. Yum, Yum. A special thank you goes out to Derotha (Dee) Williams, a LAUSD teacher, and current President of LACABSE; organizes the annual event.