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Juneteenth: What it means and how people on the Central Coast are celebrating

Posted at 12:33 PM, Jun 19, 2020

June 19th has another name, Juneteenth, and it's gaining more recognition as more and more people call for racial equality.

Juneteenth is the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States dating back to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that all slaves were now free.

It came nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

Historians say this is because Texas was still under Confederate control at the time. It wasn't until about 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston and announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree.

"Robert E. Lee surrenders, the war is over, everything is technically the United States again and the 13th Amendment goes into 'effect' everywhere. Of course, we didn't have cellphones back then so that means you have to send the military, send people there to spread the news that this has now happened," said Dr. Thanayi Jackson, an assistant professor of history at Cal Poly.

Thus, Juneteenth was created to mark the country’s second Independence Day.

"People started celebrating, they were in jubilation and very excited that they were able to be free and do whatever they wanted to do," said Cheryl Vines, co-founder of Women in the NAACP (WIN) in San Luis Obispo County.

Juneteenth Statue
A statue depicts a man holding the state law that made Juneteenth a state holiday is shown Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in Galveston, Texas. The inscription on the statue reads "On June 19, 1865, at the close of the Civil War, U.S. Army General Gordon Granger issued an order in Galveston stating that the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was in effect. That event, later known as "Juneteenth," marked the end of slavery in Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It has been celebrated in the Black community ever since, but many Americans are still unaware of the event.

"Their freedom speaks volumes to what they went through and what we are still continuing to go through," said Vines. "It's important we keep Juneteenth alive and in front of everyone to remind them of what happened."

Juneteenth is not recognized as a federal holiday and all but three states (Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota) consider it a holiday.

However, many companies are making it a paid holiday for employees in honor of it.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) San Luis Obispo County chapter is celebrating the holiday by reflecting, learning and connecting virtually.

Friday, June 19, 2020

From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., a nationwide livestream event hosted by NAACP where attendees will honor the lives lost this year and discuss the current civil rights movement.

NAACP SLO County Branch is also inviting members of the community to a watch party of the movie "Harriett" from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday.

It will be followed by a discussion of the film, its significance and the history it uncovers.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The NAACP SLO County Branch will host its main event, "Focus on Freedom", at 7 p.m.

The event will be livestreamed and will include speakers, historical readings, spoken word presentations, and a musical celebration.

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and independence, but many say it is also an opportunity to learn and take action to ensure everyone is treated equally.

"Celebrating the last of enslavement also means that our work begins now too. Now, you have to go through that day to day process of freedom and making sure that freedom is implemented," Dr. Jackson.

Click herefor more information on how you can participate in Juneteenth events.