Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration that ended the 250 years of legalized enslavement of Africans in the United States.
It was on June 19th 1865 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the United States Civil War had ended and that the "enslaved Africans 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 Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years.
Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations.
And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
All of which, or neither of these versions could be true.
For many it appeared that President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious southern states was in question.
For whatever the reasons, chattel slavery in Texas remained a practice that went against what was now a new law of the land.
However, one thing is clear, and that is the practice of enslaving Africans as resources was a driving force behind the wealth that allowed western industries to thrive.
A documented fact is that many slave owners, particularly large plantation owners, were granted reparations by the Federal government in payment for the human labor they had lost.
During that 250 year period fortunes were made from the free labor that Africans provided, along with the precious resources that were acquired from the African continent.
So, Africa, in spite being resource rich, and filled with genius and talent, was driven into abject poverty.
But that poverty was, and is, an illusion as we continue reclaim our resources.
We ascend from the abject dust & shame for our race, to rise into the future with grace.
In 2021, the current administration declared the official date of June 19th. Juneteenth, a national holiday, which we acknowledge as a placating gesture.
Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1853, and will continue to be celebrated by Texans and African-Americans throughout the nation in spite of any federal declarations.
Because of the uncertainty of the exact date, of "the good news" many communities lift up the entire week of the June "teenths:" From June 14th to June 19th, to acknowledge and remember the sacrifices of the ancestors.
Celebrating for the entire week allows vendors an opportunity to partner with other sister Juneteenth markets throughout the Bay Area, to serve customers throughout the week.
Whether it be on June 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th 18th or 19th. Honoring Juneteenth brings to the marketplace the indomitable spirit of Africans born in the United States prior to 1863.
Oshalla Diana Marcus. "Ms. Dee"
Cultural Educator Director, MC Arts and Culture
Lead Organizer for MC Juneteenth Festival
And Still We Rise