Juneteenth, a combination of the words June and nineteenth, is a holiday that celebrates freedom from slavery in the United States. Many consider it our second Independence Day. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of the Civil War. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued in 1863, enslaved people in Texas did not learn of their freedom until June 19, 1865 when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told the enslaved of their emancipation from slavery. (Scroll down to view a short video for kids!) Texas was one of the most remote areas of the South and it took that long for word to reach there. From that point on Juneteenth has been celebrated in the Black community. Many think it was long overdue to become a national holiday - and on June 17th, President Joe Biden made it one.
According to the National Museum of African American History, "this small pamphlet was produced in December 1862 specifically for Union soldiers to read and distribute among African Americans." Click on the image to visit the NMAAH website where you can scroll through its pages. While you're at the NMAAH website, take a look at their online resources related to Juneteenth. According to the site, "Juneteenth is a time to gather as a family, reflect on the past and look to the future. Discover ways to celebrate this African American cultural tradition of music, food and freedom." You can explore videos, scroll through recipes and hear a beautiful rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
Research into the enslaved people who lived on the land that would become Greenbelt is ongoing, but we know from the 1850 Slave Census that many farmers and landowners on the land where our community was built exploited the labor of the enslaved - all the more reason to celebrate Juneteenth and freedom for all. The Black History and Culture Committee and the City of Greenbelt have a variety of activities planned for Juneteenth. Check them out here.