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Norine Dworkin

How are you celebrating Juneteenth?

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Norine Dworkin

Monday, June 7, 2021

Founding Editor

Juneteenth — a combination of June and 19 — celebrates June 19th as the day when enslaved Black people in Texas, the last Confederate hold-out, heard the news that they were free.

President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two years prior, on Jan. 1, 1863, freeing enslaved people in states still in Confederate control. (It would take the 13th Amendment to fully abolish slavery throughout the entire United States.)

According to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lincoln opposed slavery, but  knew there wasn’t enough support, even in the North, for making Emancipation a key goal for the Union. But Lincoln also knew that the Confederacy was utilizing slave labor to dig trenches and construct fortifications and that  enslaved people were working as army cooks and hospital orderlies. Since enslaved Black people were being used against the Union, Lincoln realized he could utilize his war powers to end slavery in the name of helping the Union win the war.

Still, Emancipation wouldn’t be fully implemented until the end of the Civil War when the Union had full control of all Confederate territory. Texas was the last state to free its 250,000 enslaved Black population after Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with 2,000 Union troops. Even so, many Texas planters delayed freeing their enslaved Black people until after the harvests were brought in.

The very first Juneteenth celebrations were held in Texas in 1866. As  Black people migrated, they brought the traditional celebration with them. Now, 46 states celebrate Juneteenth as an official holiday, and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey (D) introduced legislation in February to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Here, in Florida, however, neither Juneteenth nor Florida Emancipation Day (May 20) are listed as public, state-sanctioned holidays. Interestingly, Confederate holidays such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s birthday (June 3), Confederate Memorial Day (April 26) and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday (Jan. 19) are still on the books as state-sanctioned, legal holidays. 

Nonetheless, there's oppotunity to celebrate the day of freedom and equality:

June 18,  Mildred Dixon Activity Center,  303 W. Crown Point Rd. 1 p.m.  Free.  Donations to Retirees and Friends of Orange County Community Action & Head Start Inc., which funds student scholarships are suggested. Cash, food, hygiene supplies. 

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