Friday, June 19, 2009


Seeing as I grew up in Georgia--a state that only removed a racist symbol from its flag in the last ten years--I understand what it's like to be from a place with a blotted history. Texas has more than it's fair share of embarrassments (past and present).

But I was fascinated to learn about the history behind the annual Juneteenth celebration. I mean, I had not idea this happened. I always thought that when Abraham Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, it freed all slaves in the United States and the Confederacy.

Not Texas. Slaves in Texas were not freed until June 19, 1865 three years later. Union general George Granger and a few thousand troops came to Galveston to enforce the proclamation, thus freeing thousands of slaves in East Texas. The following year, freed slaves starting celebrating June 19, calling in Juneteenth, and it's recognized around the world as a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. .

Interesting sub-note: According to Wikipedia, slavery was not as common in Hill Country (which includes the Austin area) because German settlers were against the practice. So this area was progressive even back in then...

But Texas still can't make good on this interesting holiday. Several states have adopted Juneteenth as a state holiday, including places as far away as California and New York. But it's not an official state holiday here. State employees can use it as a floating holiday, but it's essentially the same as PTO. That said, people around here continue to have Juneteenth celebrations, so at least the people of Texas recognize the importance of this bit of history, even if the state government doesn't.

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