Juneteenth: “Freedom from slavery is a memory never to be eclipsed”

June 10, 2013

Photo Credit: Austin History Center

Juneteenth is celebrated grandly in Texas each year on or around June 19th. That was the day an estimated 250,000 slaves got the news in 1865 that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had set them free. Since 1866, Juneteenth has been an integral part of African American commemorative culture, University of North Texas historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner wrote in “Juneteenth: Emancipation and Memory,” an essay included in the book Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas in the collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

A slew of parades, barbecues and pageants unfurl all over the state, from East Austin to Galveston and from New York state to Oklahoma. In 1979, Rep. Al Edwards wrote a bill to make Juneteenth an official state holiday (established in 1980). Still, African Americans have been met with resistance to celebrations of the holiday since its inception.

During Reconstruction, African Americans faced violence and brutality when they tried to celebrate the holiday because their former white owners had lost their property when slaves were freed. In fact, historians note that more acts of violence were perpetrated on newly freed people in Texas than in any other state. As time has passed, some African Americans —  generations removed from sharecropping, slavery or Reconstruction — have started to express quiet puzzlement over the reason for the holiday, given its celebration of very belated news to Texas slaves. Though a Juneteenth monument built to stand at the Capitol is in the works, the project has stalled.

Photo Credit: Austin History Center


“Even though people feel like we haven’t reached everywhere we need to reach, it says something about Texas that we celebrate and honor Emancipation, and we honor our ancestors who suffered through slavery, which I think more black folks should do,” Dr. Edmund T. Gordon, chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, said.

Gordon said that given The University of Texas at Austin’s history as a neo-Confederate university, established in 1883 — “Post Reconstruction and the re-initiation of the antebellum elites and…the re-initiation of the racial hierarchies that exist in this state…it’s important that we make this a place where Juneteenth is celebrated because black equality has never been a given at the University of Texas.”

In spite of the fact that the University of Texas was built in celebration of a “particular notion of what the South was and what the South should be…with an unbashed celebration of the Confederacy,” as Gordon said, there should be a more visible Juneteenth celebration here to highlight the presence of African Americans on campus and honor our history here.

The annual celebration of Juneteenth, as Turner wrote, offers “a reminder that freedom is a national treasure, a symbol and a reality worth celebrating, and that emancipation offered an entrée into American citizenship and identification with American ideals.”

As such, Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, has come to be known as the black Fourth of July. Self-improvement and reflection are as much a part of the celebrations as feasting, fellowship and reunions. Readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, followed by celebrations, are also relatively standard.

“As a public counter-demonstration to displays of Confederate glorification and a counter-memory to the valorization of the Lost Cause,” Turner wrote, “The event itself, an anniversary and official state holiday…reminds Texans and the nation that freedom from slavery is a memory never to be eclipsed.”

For information about Juneteenth events in Austin, visit http://www.juneteenthcentraltexas.com/EventsCalendar.html


Saturday, June 15

2K Freedom Run/Walk

9:30 a.m.

Comal St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard


Juneteenth Historical Parade

Comal St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

10 a.m.

Park Celebration

Noon – 9 p.m.


Juneteenth 2013: Back to Our Roots

Outreach Librarians/George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center

1161 Angelina Street

(512) 974-1010

10:30 A.M.
Opening program for the day, acknowledging youth
who turned in essays for the Marian Barnes writing competition

11:00 a.m.
A visit from HEB and Buddy (keeping Our Community Reading)
ssays for the Marian Barnes writing competition11:30-1:00 p.m.

“Back to Our Roots”:
Transforming gourds plants
Sticks, sack and sock puppets
Story time: Candice and her Beautiful Junk (Deborah Orr’s new book

12:00-2:00 p.m.
Old School puppet show
Funmi and Friends, dance and eat healthy

2:00 p.m.
Poetry with Terry

4:30 P.M. Closing
Thanks for your support


Tuesday, June 18

The Black Faculty and Staff Association Juneteenth Program and Celebration

  • 11:30 Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at the Martin Luther King Jr. Statue on the East Mall
  • 11:45am-1:00pm Celebration and Guest Speaker Clifton Van Dyke, vice chair of the Deacon Board at Mount Olive Baptist Church, Student Activity Center Legislative Assembly Room, 2.302 Please RSVP through the following link no later than June 12, 2013. https://utexas.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3UAw2MMAXsmDjql
  • 2:00 p.m. The Division of Housing and Food Service Juneteenth Program


Saturday, June 22

Juneteenth Praise Dance

Doris Miller Auditorium

2300 Rosewood Avenue

Noon-4:00 p.m.


Sunday, June 23

Juneteenth Gospel Extravaganza

Doris Miller Auditorium

2300 Rosewood Avenue

2:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m.



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