SAN ANTONIO – Even though the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Confederate states on January 1, 1863, it took another two years, six months and 18 days before that freedom was realized for slaves in Texas and other areas of the south.
That day of freedom, June 19, 1865, is now also known as Juneteenth, and has been celebrated richly ever since, especially in San Antonio.
Juneteenth San Antonio Commissioner, Byron Miller has been in charge of celebrations in the Alamo City for the past 25 years.
”We’ve had parades, festivals, pageants, church services, gospel concerts R&B concerts.” Miller said. “What I like to say is it’s uniquely Texas, but it’s celebrated all over the world.”
In earlier years, Miller said celebrations included cooking contests and family reunions for slaves who had been separated. The celebrations were traditions that began on June 19, 1866, a year after Maj. Gen. Gordon Grainger of the Union Army settled into Galveston Bay and read General Order Number Three.
”That basically said either you work still on the plantation and work for wages or go about and become an entrepreneur on your own,” Miller said.
More than 2 1/2 years before the order was read, President Abraham Lincoln granted freedom to all slaves in Confederate states through the Emancipation Proclamation. Some say it took so long for word to travel because the man tasked with delivering the news was killed. Others say farmers simply chose not to obey orders.
On June 19, 1865, freedom from slavery became undeniable.
”There were people of African descent, slaves that assembled there in Galveston and heard the news and it quickly spread across the state,” Miller said.
The word eventually reached San Antonio, where in recent years, with Millers help, has hosted the largest Juneteenth celebration in the state.
Juneteenth has been recognized as an official state holiday since 1980. This year due to COVID-19, the events have been canceled.
Miller said a good way to celebrate Juneteenth is to push policy makers to create legislation that focuses on the continued push for equality.
For more on the history of Juneteenth, click here.
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