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Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army announced to the assembled crowd at Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, “In accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
It was June 19, 1865.
Never mind that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had been written and read more than two years earlier. Juneteenth, named for the June 19 declaration, started as a celebration of emancipation day in Texas and eventually spread to other states. With celebrations dating back to 1866, Juneteenth now commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
“America cannot understand its own history unless the African-American experience is embraced as a central factor in shaping who we are and what we have become as Americans,” writes Lonnie G. Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington…
In honor of Juneteenth, the museum helped CNN.com choose six destinations that will enlighten and educate visitors about a complicated period of American history, the road to emancipation.
They are in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kansas, two in South Carolina and one in California.
For me, it has become Lubbock, Texas.
Most of my life I lived in New England and the choice was easy among friends and family. We’d drive up north of Torrington, Connecticut to the small plot of land saved as memorial as the birthplace of the abolitionist, John Brown. A peaceful country road, a pleasant spot to picnic and remember turmoil and death and change. And Freedom.
I was on the road my first year in the Southwest when Juneteenth came up and I was in Lubbock, Texas. My only clients in town were white and had no idea of the holiday. The Confederate history of Texas didn’t make it likely there would be much official celebrating going on in cotton country. But, at the end of the afternoon I drove to the Black end of Lubbock and looked for a church with lots of cars parked nearby – on a weekday. And found one.
I walked round to a picnic area behind the church and there were a hundred or so folks celebrating the day with music and speeches, music and arms that welcomed a white stranger into the anniversary like I had always lived there. As it should be throughout this land.