Juneteenth Gaining Wider Recognition

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Some term it "the other Independence Day". Today is Juneteenth, the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the country. While widely celebrated in the South, it's taken on a more national profile. Right now, and into the weekend, there are celebrations going on marking the day.

Last week the U.S. Senate approved a resolution marking today Juneteenth Independence Day. The resolution was backed by John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. We didn't think we'd be agreeing wholeheartedly with anything the senators have done as of late, but making Juneteenth all official is something we like.

"Juneteenth is a sober reminder of the original sin of our nation," Cruz said in a statement. "As we commemorate the long-overdue announcement of emancipation made this day in Texas 149 years ago, let us together, in the words of James Weldon Johnson, 'lift every voice and sing' in praise of the God-given freedoms we all cherish."

If you missed any events celebrating Juneteenth today or over the past weekend, don't worry. Galveston is putting on a celebration this weekend as part of the commemoration by the Texas Historical Commission. It's the first time a Juneteenth gets an official designation by the group as an important part of state history.

The ceremony takes place on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the intersection of 22nd Street and The Strand in downtown Galveston.

Here's the Texas Historical Society's Handbook of Texas description of Juneteenth:

On June 19 ("Juneteenth"), 1865, Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and issued General Order Number 3, which read in part, "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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor."

The tidings of freedom reached the approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas gradually as individual plantation owners informed their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. The news elicited an array of personal celebrations, some of which have been described in The Slave Narratives of Texas (1974). The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African American about their voting rights. Within a short time, however, Juneteenth was marked by festivities throughout the state, some of which were organized by official Juneteenth committees.

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