The Right Coast

June 19, 2005
Happy Juneteenth
By Gail Heriot

Although Abraham Lincoln' s Emancipation Proclamation took effect January 1, 1863, word didn't reach Texas until June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived to read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston. From there, word of freedom spread quickly to Texas' 250,000 or so slaves.

Within a few years, "Juneteenth," as the occasion was called, came to be celebrated each year by former slaves throughout Texas, sometimes with gatherings as large as 30,000, and also in Louisiana and Oklahoma. Its popularity declined somewhat in the 1960s, but it has since enjoyed a revival of interest, particularly in Texas itself, where it is now a state holiday.

Juneteenth--which celebrates an actual event of huge importance in history--provides an interesting contrast with Kwanzaa, a "traditional" holiday that was in fact made up in the 1960s Maulana Ron Karenga (a/k/a Ron Everett), a so-called Black Nationalist from Los Angeles who was convicted and served time in prison for the brutal torture of female members of his gang. Loyal readers may recall that I have written on Kwanzaa before. Not-so-loyal readers (and forgetful readers) should click here for that discussion.