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Re-published from a previous edition with 2019 updates...
Juneteenth is one of those holidays where as if you ask most Americans its premise they would respond with a resounding "I don′t know." I too did not know until the 1990′s when a former business associate of mines spearheaded the celebration in Charlotte, NC. That celebration was later revived by another business associate from Africa and is still in operation today. I attended an all-Black/African-American grade school in Miami and we were well educated on our history by learning of the contributions of Black/African-American icons like abolitionist Mr. Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (Frederick Douglass), the underground railroad′s Ms. Harriett Tubman (a.k.a. Moses), inventor Mr. George Washington Carver, and abolitionist Ms. Isabella Baumfree (a.k.a. Sojourner Truth) to name a few. Unfortunately, I do not recall being taught anything concerning this important holiday/event.
I was quite surprise to recently learn that this important piece of American history has been at the forefront of celebrations on the island of Galveston, Texas, since 1865 when the area Slaves were finally informed that they were in fact free to leave their perspective plantations and seek the American dream that includes Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness per our United States Constitution. The delayed news was referred to as General Order Number 3 and delivered by Major General Gordon Granger. It was indeed great news for some of the 250,000 Texas Slaves although the rest of our nation′s cities had been given the same message more than five months earlier after the 13th Amendment was made official on Tuesday January, 31, 1865, and after the Saturday April, 15, 1865, assassination of then President Abraham Lincoln of Hodgenville, Kentucky by John Wilkes Booth of Bel Air, Maryland. Emancipation Proclamation which was a presidential order (known today as an Executive Order) as opposed to a law signed by the United States Congress. This document proclaimed that Slaves in certain U.S. cities and States shall be freed on Thursday January 1, 1863, which resulted in a small portion of the more than four million enslaved Blacks/Africans obtaining their freedom. This new found freedom was a blessing for some and a curse for others who had grown highly dependent on their masters′ providing their food, clothing, and shelter for nearly four centuries. As such, reportedly 40% of the Slaves in North Carolina actually supported the South/Confederacy during the Civil War (1861-1865) by maintaining the plantations, assisting the Confederate troops, and some fighting side-by-side with their masters. This phenomenon is known today as the Stockholm syndrome as explained in my book Charlotte From A Tour Guide′s Perspective."I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves" -- Harriett Tubman (now debated but you get the point right!).
Thanks to various individuals, groups, businesses, and not-for-profit organizations; this important piece of American history has been preserved since Slavery was official abolished in 1865 more than a Century and a half ago. Some of those individuals/businesspersons are Doris and Sam Collins III of Hitchcock, Texas, which is approximately 15 miles (by car) from the island of Galveston. In 2005 this dynamic duo purchased and restored a 19th Century home that was once owned by Mr. Henry Martin Stringfellow, a successful horticulturist from 1883 to his death in 1912 during the period known today as Reconstruction. He was well known for paying former Slaves $1 a day as opposed to the then going wage of 50 cents which afforded them a higher standard of living for their families. Some went on to purchase land of their own from their wages derived from the orange groves on the 9.5-acre property. The old post-antebellum home is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places (since 2013), and has been part of the area Juneteenth celebrations since 2006. Several years ago the home was part of a PBS special (21st Minute) focusing on the area.