Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation declared that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were freed. However, the word did not reach Texas. Slavery had remained relatively unaffected in Texas—until U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3 on June 19, 1865.
General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
The name “Juneteenth” is a blend of two words: “June” and “nineteenth.”
There are many stories of enslavement but I’m going to share one dealing with the Ohio Valley. Prior to West Virginia joining the Union, slavery was in the Ohio Valley. In 1852, Sara Lucy Bagby was purchased for $600. This purchase was made by slave trader John Goshorn of Wheeling while he was visiting in Richmond, VA. The slave trader then gifted Sara to his son William S. Goshorn. In October 1860, she escaped from Wheeling and made her way to Cleveland via the Underground Railroad. Her owner pursued her there, had her arrested, declared his property and returned to Wheeling by train in January 1861. Why is this notable? Sara was the last slave captured under the Fugitive Slave Act (The Fugitive Slave Act, the federal law, which declared that runaway slaves must be returned to their owners.)
When we celebrate Juneteenth it’s a celebration of freedom and mourning the lives lost in slavery. Celebrate our progress and keep moving forward. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Juneteenth. There are lots of events taking place in your area. Even if you do not attend an event take a moment to reflect. I hope you all have a wonderful Juneteenth!