Juneteenth: A Day of Celebration, Reflection, and Education
History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day in 1865 when slavery truly ended. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, declaring that all enslaved people under Confederate control would be forever free. Unfortunately, it didn’t instantly free all slaves and it didn’t apply to slaves in the border states that remained loyal to the Union.
During the Civil War, many slaveholders had migrated to Texas to escape the fighting and by 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas. Despite Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender in April of 1865, slavery remained relatively unaffected in Texas, which was geographically isolated. At the time, Union troops did not have a strong enough presence to enforce the end of slavery until General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas. General Granger arrived on June 19, 1865, two months after Confederate General Lee’s surrender, and two and half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Upon arrival, General Granger read the famous General Order No. 3:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.
While many enslavers withheld that information until the end of the harvest season, many celebrations followed the reading of the proclamation.
Modern Day Juneteenth
Today, people across the US commemorate African American freedom with Juneteenth celebrations, education, and reflection. Just this week, President Biden signed into law a bill making Juneteenth a national holiday. The bill had been passed unanimously by the Senate, and by a vote of 415 to 14 in the House.
In our own community of Wausau, Wisconsin, Juneteenth is being recognized with our first-ever Juneteenth Celebration. This celebration is being held this Saturday, June 19, 2021, at the Whitewater Music Hall from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Wausau’s 2021 Juneteenth Celebration is meant to commemorate Black freedom while emphasizing education and achievement. This event will feature live music, food, children’s activities such as arts and crafts, a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic, and an open mic. The event will culminate with the crowning of a Juneteenth King and Queen, drawing inspiration from Black people manifesting the dreams of their ancestors when they were liberated from slavery. The crowning of a Juneteenth King and Queen is intended to elevate young Black people and help them succeed and reach their goals.
Our Firm’s Celebration of Juneteenth
As a commitment to our Black community, we are proud to support this year’s (soon-to-be-announced) Juneteenth King & Queen with a $500 scholarship. We hope that this will be the beginning of an annual local tradition that will inspire other local businesses’ contributions.
We invite our community to join us in celebrating Wausau’s 2021 Juneteenth Celebration! See you there!