Happy Juneteenth!

From Wikipedia: “Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a holiday in the United States honoring African American heritage by commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. State of Texas in 1865. Celebrated on June 19, the term is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, and is recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in 41 states of the United States.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth

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About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at donald_shaffer@yahoo.com
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10 Responses to Happy Juneteenth!

  1. Gil Wilson says:

    I’ll never get this one. Emancipation Day is January 1; Juneteenth is at the end and a Texas holiday at that. Emancipation Day (January 1) was celebrated big time with parades, speeches etc. for year and years. When did Juneteenth become more important than January 1? It would seem that the radification date of the 13th Amendment would have more weight than Juneteenth where all the slaves in the United States were actually freed. (I feel like I’m somehow going against the tide on this one.) [This could be what happens when one state controls the content for most of the Social Studies textbooks.]

    • Excellent points all. One of the problems of celebrating emancipation on January 1 is it tends to get overshadowed by the New Year’s Holiday. Juneteenth is nicely positioned about halfway between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Plus Juneteenth has got a cool name.

  2. Scott Chafin says:

    I was born in Texas on Juneteenth — in the Brazos Valley, the largest slave-holding region of Texas, and for six years of my youth, lived only a few miles from Stephen F. Austin’s original colony. Later, we moved to Brazoria County, near the site of the old Jackson Plantation, so slavery in Texas was never far from where I grew up. As a white boy growing up in the 1950s and early ’60s in Texas, I was teased unmercifully about being born on “Juneteenth.” But as sincerely as I’ve ever said anything, I was always proud of being born on a day when so many fellow Texans realized that they were no longer slaves. Not that that meant the end of their trials and travails. But I distinctly remember seeing the joy that Juneteenth brought to African-American Texans, and in my family, we too joined in with watermelon, barbecue, and a devil’s food cake my mother baked … if by ourselves. And in my teenage years, when Joe Tex famously sang of eating barbecue and drinking red soda water in Navasota, Texas on the nineteenth of June — and oh, did they celebrate! — I knew exactly what he meant. Texas was at the end of the Confederate world, and its slaves learned last that they were free at last. For that reason, Juneteenth meant more to them than any other day, and over time, the joy and celebration of being free at last translated to the overall African-American experience. For me, it’s merely my birthday; for their freedom, I celebrate it with them.

    • Hi Scott. Thanks for the terrific story!

      Don Shaffer

    • Ella Harden says:

      It was strange to read Navasota. I was born in Navasota ,Texas and I tell people they should checkout Navasota, Anderson, Richards all those little towns shutdown and celebrate 19th of June always on the 19th of June all races. I just had to respond back to you. Your comment brought back happy memories about the Juneteenth celebrations in that area. Thanks for the walk back down memory lane.

    • Sallie Willis Williams says:

      Scott I grew up in “town” in Navasota a midst a whirl-storm of prejudice. I say in town because my family had ties to the farms west of Navasota in the county; life was really hard out in the county. I am pleased to know that in such difficult times, that your White mother like my African American mother was teaching tolerance and respect. I didn’t know that side of the white family. I’ll think of you on Juneteenth

      • Scott Chafin says:

        Sallie: Thank you for your very thoughtful comments. While I live now in Virginia — in that region where “Stonewall” and Robert E. Lee are still revered (not by everyone, of course!), my heart is still close to the Brazos Valley: my oldest daughter — a teacher at the new College Station High School — and her family still live there. And as long as they do, I’ll be passing through Navasota occasionally; can’t get from Houston to College Station without doing so. What’s clear — and your comment recognizes it — is that nothing destroys prejudice and opens eyes to equality than parents. Next are teachers. My parents were both. Thanks again for your comment, and best wishes. I’ll be thinking of you on Juneteenth, too!

  3. Jerri says:

    great story…

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