On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared freedom for all slaves in the United States. On June 19, 1865, this great news finally made its way to the Black men and women being kept as slaves in the great state of Texas. Two years after the proclamation? We know news traveled slowly in those days, but did it really take two years? Yes, it did.
Was the messenger murdered on the way? Was the news deliberately withheld by the slave owners to maintain the labor force? Did the federal troops actually wait for the slave owners to reap the benefits of the last cotton harvest before they spread the news? History has not recorded why the delay, but a delay there was.
So June 19 has become known as the date for the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery. It is known as Juneteenth, and it is a day when people come together to pray for peace and liberty for all; a day when we can all take one step closer together, to better use the energy that many of us waste on racism.
OFFICAL JUNETEENTH POEM
KRISTINA KAY 1996
From Africa’s hurt we rose, already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
Skills of art, beauty and family,
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose.
Survive we must; we did.
We rose to be you; we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose
To become the knowledge we never knew.
Dream we did. Act we must.