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Juneteenth Facts and Realisms

Juneteenth cannot be celebrated without knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly. We need to celebrate the day as it meant that slavery was the cause of the Civil War and the end of official chattel slavery. Celebrations are taking place across Texas, including Austin and San Antonio, to commemorate Juneteenth. In Austin, the celebrations include a Rosewood Park & Historic East Austin celebration, a large event titled the Central Texas Juneteenth Parade & Festival. This annual event starts at the corner of E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. & Salina St., and travels down Chicon St., and ends at Chestnut Ave. and Pleasant Valley Road. On the same day, June 15, a program titled Stay Black and Live-Juneteenth Festival will be held at the George Washington Carver Museum, Library & Genealogy Center, featuring a stunning lineup of local Black speakers and musicians, along with a cookout and live music.  Also in Austin is the Black Makers Market: Juneteenth African American Cultural and Heritage Facility. This event supports Black makers and vendors and is hosted at the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility, featuring a variety of vendors and kid-friendly activities. Also, on June 16 is the 19th Fest at Waterloo Park whichcelebrates the federal holiday. The event features live music and retail and food vendors. One of the more informative events on June 18 is the Black Heritage & Black Freedom: A Juneteenth Celebration Thinkery, which celebrates Juneteenth with Black leaders, community organizations, and “Thinkery” staff, hosting hands-on activities and …

Juneteenth cannot be celebrated without knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly. We need to celebrate the day as it meant that slavery was the cause of the Civil War and the end of official chattel slavery. Celebrations are taking place across Texas, including Austin and San Antonio, to commemorate Juneteenth. In Austin, the celebrations include a Rosewood Park & Historic East Austin celebration, a large event titled the Central Texas Juneteenth Parade & Festival. This annual event starts at the corner of E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. & Salina St., and travels down Chicon St., and ends at Chestnut Ave. and Pleasant Valley Road. On the same day, June 15, a program titled Stay Black and Live-Juneteenth Festival will be held at the George Washington Carver Museum, Library & Genealogy Center, featuring a stunning lineup of local Black speakers and musicians, along with a cookout and live music. 

Also in Austin is the Black Makers Market: Juneteenth African American Cultural and Heritage Facility. This event supports Black makers and vendors and is hosted at the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility, featuring a variety of vendors and kid-friendly activities. Also, on June 16 is the 19th Fest at Waterloo Park which
celebrates the federal holiday. The event features live music and retail and food vendors. One of the more informative events on June 18 is the Black Heritage & Black Freedom: A Juneteenth Celebration Thinkery, which celebrates Juneteenth with Black leaders, community organizations, and “Thinkery” staff, hosting hands-on activities and special story times throughout the museum.

San Antonio celebrations include a parade on June 15, beginning at Sam Houston and ending at Comanche Park. There is a celebration at Crockett Park in San Antonio on the same day. San Antonio historian and professor Mario Marcel Salas will host a panel discussion on June 19 at the University of the Incarnate Word Student Center at 5:30 pm, exploring the good, the bad, and the ugly of Juneteenth. Also, on June 18, the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM), in partnership with Bexar County and the Tobin Center, is collaborating with the Classical Music Institute and the San Antonio Gospel Heritage Choir and friends to present “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” by composer Joel Thompson, finishing with a classic by Richard Smallwood. This event also features an original work by Billy Ray Sheppard and V. Michael McKay with the Houston Gospel Legends.

All of the events and celebrations are needed and a great way to inform the public about Black history. However, much of the real Juneteenth story has not been told. General Gordon Granger issued the emancipation order two years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the proclamation. This was in part due to the concerted effort by Southern slave owners to keep it a secret as long as possible. Additionally, General Granger was no friend of Black people. He issued this vital document with unknown horrors. He made it clear that Black people were not allowed to gather around Union military bases, and they must go back to work at the very plantation they were enslaved on for wages that, in many cases, would not be honored. He also made it clear that Black people still had to carry passes when traveling and instituted the prison pipeline for vagrancy law violations. His actions set up the prison-leasing system that farmed out Black prisoners to work for free on former slave plantations.

On some plantations, Black workers were not informed that they were emancipated, and when they found out about the order were threatened with death if they tried to leave. Many were killed while attempting to celebrate their freedom, and racist vigilantes shot and killed freedmen for 75 cents to a dollar. Other formerly enslaved people were told to get off of the plantation or be shot. These formerly enslaved people had to go to different plantations to work for little or no pay. When there were no Union soldiers to protect them, the slave owners simply ignored the emancipation order. Historical records indicate that white supremacists killed many Black people if they found them praising their newly found freedom after June 19, 1865.  The Sheriff of DeWitt County shot a Black man for whistling Yankee Doodle while in Red River County. In Limestone County, one man who referred to himself as “Dixie” said he killed every one of the “Freemen he could catch,” and in 1874, another man from Goliad said he liked the chance to kill Indians but favored killing “Negroes” more. Juneteenth was obviously a time of hope but also a time of fear.

We should celebrate Juneteenth, but only with the education to accompany it. At events throughout San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Galveston, and other places, every event should go on with the actual education that should go along with it. Juneteenth must be a time of reflection whereby one can see and understand the continuity of history and the legacy of slavery and its child, white supremacy, which is still prevalent in the U.S. As San Antonio and Austin become more socially, economically, and culturally connected, we must look realistically at history without sugarcoating it.

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