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Wondering how you can honor Juneteenth in Williamsburg? The folks at Colonial Williamsburg are committed to sharing the stories of America’s origins, with the intention of helping to create a better, more informed society. The struggle for freedom for Black people continues to be a part of our country’s legacy, and today more and more people are joining the movement to spread awareness and support the Black members of our society.
You may not have heard of Juneteenth, or “Juneteenth Freedom Day,” an American holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. But the actor interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg share the reality behind this historic day each year.
We are grateful to live in a world that hopes to learn and recognize the truth, and even more grateful to be neighbors to an institution that provides resources for understanding race and inequality through history.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth marks the emancipation of the last enslaved people on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, ending the institution of chattel slavery in the United States. At Colonial Williamsburg, this important holiday is honored by highlighting the ongoing work that uncovers the untold stories of African Americans.
You may be thinking, “But didn’t President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation end slavery?” On January 1, 1863, Lincoln did declare that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” But for more than two years following his proclamation, slavery still persisted in Texas. On June 19, 1865, union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, TX with the news:
“…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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves…”
The celebrations that followed this reading by General Gordon Granger began a tradition that has lasted for one hundred and fifty five years, and today is hosted in cities across America and beyond.
How is Juneteenth celebrated?
Historically, Juneteenth celebrations have included praying, reassuring one another, and gathering with family. Some later activities included rodeos, fishing, barbecuing, and baseball.
Today, Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas, a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future.
The growing popularity of this holiday is heartening. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today.
Each June 19, Colonial Williamsburg invites us to join them in commemorating this day. Sign up for our emails and check back closer to June 2021 to learn more about Colonial Williamsburg’s plans for honoring Juneteenth.