Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy Juneteenth!

Juneteenth book coverAlthough Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, the word that the war was over and the slaves were free didn't get to Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865. The anniversary has been celebrated as Juneteenth in many communities since then.

The Washington legislature recognized Juneteenth in 2007:
The legislature recognizes that on June 19, 1865, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and the slaves were now free; that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863; that the end of slavery brought on new challenges and realities in establishing a previously nonexistent status for African-Americans in the United States; that racism and continued inequality is the legacy of slavery and acknowledging it is the first step in its eradication; and that since 1980 June 19th has been celebrated as Juneteenth across the United States as a day for people to come together in the spirit of reconciliation to commemorate the contributions of African-Americans to this country's history and culture.       
The legislature declares that an annual day of recognition be observed in remembrance of the day the slaves realized they were free as a reminder that individual rights and freedoms must never be denied.
Laws 2007, c 61 § 1 (codified in RCW 1.16.050).

Ralph Ellison's novel Juneteenth was published five years after his death, based on manuscripts in the Library of Congress.
"'There've been a heap of Juneteenths gone by and there'll be a heap more before we're free.' That's what Ellison was saying to every one of us."
—John F. Callahan, Ellison's literary executor, quoting a character in the book
The book is available in campus libraries (Suzzallo/Allen Stacks PS3555.L625 J86 1999, Tacoma, and Bothell).

See last year's Juneteenth post here.

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