By LaVerne Ross
This week on the 18th of June or (“Juneteenth” as it is known in the African American community) will be celebrated by Americans and other people throughout the world.
When we take a deeper look at America’s history over the fast approaching 400 years (1619 -present), it reveals as a nation we are still searching for our true identity. An identity that is all-inclusive, not one that would alienate itself while the world is becoming more diverse. An America that would continue to hold on to many bad habits from the past will fail to convince the world the (true) spirt and meaning of democracy. Nonetheless a greater understanding and recognition for Africans in America their continued contributions, struggles and hope could finally help to eliminate the ignorance about a people who continue to excel and influence the world.
The following events will help to explain why many recognize the Juneteenth as the 2nd American Independence Day. Beginning with the more than 200 years of operating in the Middle Passage during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to North America, the dehumanization of real people (the 3/5 compromise) and the mental, physical, psychological, spiritual, and economic manipulations. It was against the law to teach a black person to write, so from an educational point of view, the slave was destined for failure under this system. The question of slavery and its economic effects divided our country both the North and the South.
Next, we must realize in order to end slavery, many brave, caring and understanding whites had to lead the charge for change, including many who lost their lives. The anti-slavery movement help lay the ground work for the Underground Railroad. There again without the help of Whites and Canadians, escape would have never been possible at the time. It has been estimated that some 75,000 slaves escaped as a result of the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was unofficially an important means for early emancipation for African American slaves.
During the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln contemplated the issue to save the union or abolish slavery. Hence, Frederick Douglass later argues that slavery was the true cause of war and that therefore the Union’s war should be abolition Douglass campaigned for the recruitment of slaves and free blacks into the Union Army. His two sons were the first volunteers in the all black regiment formed in Massachusetts. By 1865 there were 300,000 black slaves and black free men in the Union Army. The massive all black regiment in the Union Army contributed greatly to the surrender if General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army, in April 1865. The all black regiment was instrumental in the ending of the Civil War. They helped to save the union and contributed to the abolition of African Americans in Slavery.
Acting under his wartime powers President Abraham Lincoln declared free only those states in rebel-held territory. However, President Lincoln calls the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 the “central act of his administration and the greatest event of the 19th Century.”
Union Army Major General Gordon Granger along with 2,000 Union Army Troops arrived on the Island of Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. Granger announced that the Civil War had ended and that all slaves were free. In addition, Granger read General Order No. 3. This document enforced President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, emancipating the remaining 250,000 slaves in Texas and bordering states. Thus, begins Juneteenth (June 19, 1865). Nevertheless, we must come together to work equally.
My family and I brought the spirit of Juneteenth to Santa Monica 59 years ago. The City of Santa Monica and the Juneteenth Celebration Committee Inc. have celebrated and supported Juneteenth for 24 years now. This support has made our celebration a community success. So January 1, and June 19 each year we recognize the end of one era and the beginning of another the Emancipation Proclamation and the Juneteenth Celebration.
With that, we invite the community to participate in this community event. This year’s theme is “JUNETEENTH – Freedom: The Beat of Change” The 24th anniversary of Juneteenth in Santa Monica will be celebrated at the Virginia Avenue Park from 11 a. m. – 4 p.m.
LaVerne Ross is the Founder, CEO and President of the organization Juneteenth Celebration Committee Inc., and creator of the Roland R. Ross Hearing and Literacy Scholarship, and collaborates with the City of Santa Monica to feature the Juneteenth Festival each year. Abdul Salaam Muhammad, of the Washington Carver Museum contributed to this story.