- Faith & Family
Today for many people, Tuesday June 19th was simply another heated summer day. Yet 147 years ago, for thousands of Blacks in the state of Texas, the day took on significant meaning when they discovered that they were now free men and women of color.
The original Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to more than 3 million slaves in the Confederate states, was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. However, the former slaves living in Galveston Texas were not notified of their newly freed status until Union soldiers arrived.
Their predicament was similar to the ones faced by the slaves living in Florida.
In Florida, the news of the Emancipation Proclamation was not announced until May 20, 1865 – two years after the document was signed – in downtown Tallahassee at the present-day site of the Knott House Museum. The news was delayed because the state remained firmly in the hands of the Confederacy. Now, the holiday celebrating Florida’s slaves being freed is called “20-Some May.”
Meanwhile, more than 700 miles away in Galveston, Texas, slaves only learned that had been freed when a Union general and federal troops arrived in the city on June 18th, 1865 to enforce the emancipation. Once they realized that slavery had been abolished, the freedmen and women began celebrating with prayer, dancing, feasting and song, according to historical accounts.
The following year, Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas.
Now the holiday is recognized as a state holiday in more than 40 states including Florida, Georgia, California and Colorado.
Celebrations for Juneteenth are held across the nation. In Florida, celebrations were held in Tampa, Jacksonville and Ft. Lauderdale. Old Dillard Museum held their annual Juneteenth event on Tuesday, June 19th which featured Kitty Oliver at their “Mama Said: Juneteenth Social.”
By Kaila Heard