June 19th is a national day of commemoration in the United States, Emancipation Day or “Juneteenth.” It was on this date in 1865 that the Union Army officially occupied the state of Texas ending one of the last bastions of slavery in the United States.
In recognition of this important moment in our nation’s history, Middleton Place will offer half-price general admission to all residents of Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties to come together as we remember and honor those African Americans – both enslaved and freed – that lived and worked at Middleton Place.
In addition to regular programming, screenings of the award-winning documentary Beyond the Fields: Slavery at Middleton Place and special first-person presentations will be offered to the visiting public.
The History of “Juneteenth”
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.
A range of activities were provided to entertain the masses, including such events as rodeos, fishing tournaments, baseball games, barbeques, and music.
Today, Juneteenth is enjoying a phenomenal growth rate within communities and organizations throughout the country. Institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others have begun sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities. In recent years, a number of local and national Juneteenth organizations have arisen to take their place alongside older organizations – all with the mission to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African American history and culture.
Juneteenth today, celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten, for all of the roots tie back to this fertile soil from which a national day of pride is growing.
The future of Juneteenth looks bright as the number of cities and states creating Juneteenth committees continues to increase. Respect and appreciation for all of our differences grow out of exposure and working together. Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us. (www.juneteenth.com)