Juneteenth: A Long Way to Freedom

By Billy Denham-El

June 19, 1865, Union General George Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to inform the slaves that the Civil War had ended two months earlier. This was two and a half years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation - but slavery had continued in Texas due to lack of Union troops to patrol. General Granger's Order Number 3 freed the last 250,000 slaves, whose bondage had been essentially unaffected by Lincoln's efforts.

June 19 was shortened to Juneteenth and among those who celebrate, it has become the African American addition to the national Independence Day (July 4). To many so-called African Americans1, Juneteenth is a reminder that the Emancipation Proclamation did not bring about emancipation, and that Independence Day ignores the atrocious, systematic institution of slavery entirely.

Juneteenth was made an official holiday on January 1, 1980 in Texas, and has traditionally been focused on church celebrations featuring guest speakers, food, and fun. This event is to celebrate so-called African American Freedom - but as we examine the American system we see that this country still has a long way to go. The systems of education, economics, housing and law still contribute to the deep-rooted racism in the US. Schools exclude our history, generally starting Black History in 1865 and ignoring anything before that.
June 14: Ancestral Dinner 6-9 pm
June 15: Gospel Friday at Southwest Comm. Center, 2-10 pm
June 16: Freedom Parade begins at the Dunbar Center, 12 pm
June 16: Ethnic food, artists, exhibitions in Clinton and Hanover Squares 1-11 pm
June 17: Alliance Network at Jubilee Park 4-7 pm

Stereotypes of so-called African Americans result in their continued exclusion from the job market; and geographic racism, apparent in the 911 emergency response system, has shown that emergency dispatching is dangerously inefficient and unequal in predominantly so-called African American and Latino areas. The "Peculiar Institution" known as slavery still exists in this country in a more covert form, and many so-called African Americans are still "enslaved" and suffering under the guise of "democracy".

* I use "so-called" because there is no such thing as a negro, colored, African American, or black - these are scars created during the time of slavery (1774-1865) by the slavemasters.

Billy Denham-El, MSEd, is a Syracuse native and strong supporter of an inclusive, independent African American Historical Curriculum for all schools across the nation.