By: Brittany Teal, MSC 2015-2016
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The institution of American slavery was prohibited by law when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 on New Year’s Day. On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, soldiers from the Union Army landed at Galveston, Texas to deliver the news and enforce the Proclamation.
While the exact reasons of the delay are unknown, we know that the instantaneous information sharing available today is a far cry from 19th century methods, which included snail mail, traditional media sources like newspapers and telegrams.
Further, slavery was the backbone of the American economy, particularly in the South, with many in the elite class vested in maintaining the institution. The financial impact of slavery prohibition in 1863 is tantamount to the illegalization of banking, insurance, or any other bedrock industry in current society.
There is a common misconception that Juneteenth is a Texas holiday. In actuality, Juneteenth is celebrated nationwide with Milwaukee and Minneapolis boasting two of the largest celebrations. Here in Dallas, you can celebrate at the Dallas Juneteenth Festival at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center or at the Best Juneteenth Celebration in Desoto.
We celebrate Juneteenth, not to highlight the delay. Rather, we celebrate the day that all enslaved African-Americans were legally freed from slavery. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. phrased it best - none of us is free until all of us are free.