History of Juneteenth
On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln declared that “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State… shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” This sounds good, but contrary to popular belief, it did not immediately free a single slave as the country was in the midst of a civil war.
This was most evident in the state of Texas which was almost entirely under Confederate control. On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Union General Gordon Granger and two thousand troops marched into Galveston, Texas to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. On June 19, Granger read General Order #3 which stated:
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.
This was a cause for celebration as former slaves rejoiced in the streets about their new found freedom. That joyous day has since become known as Juneteenth, an observance of the freeing of the last enslaved people in the United States. Annual events began the next year with many former slaves making the trip back to Galveston for the ceremonies.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is now observed throughout the US and across the world and is recognized as a state holiday in 41 states including Washington. It is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
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, music, 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. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.
Juneteenth in Kent,WA
At the June 19, 2012 Kent City Council Meeting, a Proclamation was issued emphasizing the significance of the Juneteenth celebration in African American history and in the heritage of the nation and the city of Kent. This was a historical event as Gwen Allen Carston, Executive Director of the Kent Black Action Commission, accepted the proclamation along with other KBAC members.
Kent’s first Juneteenth celebration was held as a family reunion picnic style event on June 24, 2012 at the Kent Senior Center.
The event was a success with vendors offering everything from stylish jewelry and accessories to delectable cupcakes, poetic literature, and fine art while the youth enjoyed face painting and games on the lawn. The main stage featured a reading of the Proclamation, a rapping preacher, story-telling, singing, dancing and more. Visitors attended a presentation titled A Case of Identify Theft which posed the question of, “What should African Americans call ourselves,” and raised some very enriching dialog. The food was amazing and everyone had a great time. The important thing is that everyone learned about the origin and history of Juneteenth.
Excitement is building for the 2017 Juneteenth Celebration which is scheduled for June 17, 2017 from 10-dust at Morrill Meadows Park on East Hill in Kent. There will be fun and learning for everyone to enjoy. Best of all, the event is free for everyone in the community! Mark it on your calendar now, but keep checking back on this website and our Facebook page for more updates as the event gets closer. Be sure to tell all of your family and friends. We look forward to seeing you there!
- Q & A’s.
Why is it important that we celebrate Juneteenth?
It signifies the ability of our nation to evolve from its past and push forward into a bright and prosperous future for all. By celebrating Juneteenth we heal as a nation through acknowledging the painful reality of our past.
Is Juneteenth only an African American celebration?
Absolutely not! Although Juneteenth is a celebration of the freedom of the end of slavery in the United States, that is a cause for celebration by EVERY American citizen. Observance of Juneteenth provides an opportunity for African Americans to share our history and culture with our community at large. We invite people of all races, cultures, and ethnicities to share in the celebration.
How can I get involved?
If you are interested in helping with the Juneteenth planning please contact Linda Sweezer at or Gwen Allen-Carston at gallencarston@gmail or attend our next KBAC Action Up meeting. Details of KBAC meetings can be found on our meetings tab. This is a great activity for students who are in need of community service hours. If you or your organization are interested in partnering with us in sponsoring this event please contact us.
Thank you for your attendance and support for all of our JUNETEENTH Events, since 2012! This years event was truly one to remember!! We enjoyed everyone who came out to share and participate in our program for the day and ALL of our youth who represented WELL. We are looking forward to bigger and better things for 2017. It’s an ANNUAL happening, now for us, so we must continue to strive for excellence in our presentations.
We will begin structuring our plans and activities at our next ACTION UP Meeting, commencing: