June 19th or Juneteenth, as it is commonly called here in Texas, is an emancipation holiday that is unique to Texas and it has become one of my favorite cultural celebrations. This year, I'm hosting the Second Annual THE KITCHEN DIVA'S LUNCH AND LEARN JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION on Tuesday, June 19th at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, 1165 Angelina St., here in Austin! You can purchase tickets at event.brite.com, thekitchendiva.
For our family, the Juneteenth celebration is a time to be grateful and thankful for the freedom we all now enjoy. Every time I think about all the hardships African-Americans have overcome, I’m always so grateful for everything we’ve accomplished.
Juneteenth has become a special time for to reunite, reflect and to eat! A barbecue dinner is a Juneteenth tradition. I’ve often prepared the traditional Texas barbecue menu of beef brisket, smoked chicken, ribs, sausage, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, a peach cobbler, and a pitcher of sweet ice tea on Juneteenth, but now my family and guests expect something new and different from The Kitchen Diva!
For my Second Annual Juneteenth Celebration at the Carver Museum this year, I'm
presenting recipes from Africa, the Carribbean, Southern dishes created by Dr. George Washington Carver, and my mother's fabulous Apple Streusel!
During the Carver Museum Celebration, we'll also feature information about the history of Juneteenth. The holiday began in Texas as a joyous celebration of hope and freedom from slavery for thousands of African-Americans. It all began with the arrival in Galveston, Texas of Major General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers with the news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were now free. President Abraham Lincoln sent Major General Granger and his troops to Texas because slave owners in the State refused to obey the Emancipation Proclamation.
It was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s official Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 that this news finally came to African Americans in Texas. General Granger delivered the news that all slaves were free by Order # 3 on June 19, 1865 stating:
“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 laborer.”
It is hard to explain why it took so long for the freedom message to get to Texas. An old slave folktale says that President Lincoln sent the news from Washington by a Union soldier who rode all the way to Texas on a stubborn mule. A more likely cause was the stubbornness on the part of slave owners who knew about the Emancipation Proclamation but were unwilling to follow it because they did not want to loose the free labor provided by their captives. No one truly knows why it took so long for African-American Texans to receive their freedom, but the date has been a cause for celebration from that day to this.
When African-American Texans heard the news that they were free they rejoiced and began to dance and shout for joy, or fell to their knees in prayerful thanksgiving. Thousands of freed slaves left the state and traveled to Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and other states in search of family members who had been sold or who had escaped from slavery. The practice of joining together with family members on Juneteenth has made the holiday a popular date for family reunions to this day.
The June 19th celebration is one of the largest and most popular Emancipation holidays in the United States. The name “Juneteenth” may seem like an unusual way to describe the date, but this was a celebration of former slaves, most of whom had been denied the right to learn to read or write. Information and events could only be shared orally, that is by one person telling it to another. The month and date were combined and shortened from June 19th to “Juneteenth.” Juneteenth was used to remember the day in history.
Juneteenth has been celebrated in Texas in a variety of ways. Some freed slaves commemorated the first anniversary of their freedom in 1866 with a special church service. African-Americans in Austin, Houston and Mexia, raised money to purchase park land to hold their Juneteenth celebrations. In 1872, Rev. Jack Yates, a local minister and community leader, helped to raise $1,000 to buy 10 acres of land which the African-American citizens of Houston named “Emancipation Park.”
In Austin, the Travis County Emancipation Celebration Association acquired land for its Emancipation Park, now known as Rosewood Park, in the early 1900s. The annual Juneteenth celebration here includes a dance, Miss and Lil’ Miss Juneteenth Pageants, a carnival, a, battle of the bands, a parade down Austin’s main street, Congress Avenue, and an all-day celebration at Rosewood Park. Large crowds of Austinites of all races line the streets to watch the parade and to join in the celebration.
Juneteenth became an official state holiday in 1979. The holiday began to spread beyond Texas as African-American moved to other states and continued celebrating Juneteenth in their newly adopted homes. Celebrating Juneteenth has become a tradition in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Washington as well as in other parts of the United States. Juneteenth celebrations have also been held in Paris, France!
Although the Juneteenth holiday has changed since it was first celebrated in the 1800’s, many things have remained the same. The celebration is an important day for families and friends to gather together to remember the past, acknowledge the accomplishments of the present, plan for the future, and to eat lots of good food!