BOSTON (CBS) – Juneteenth, a blend of the words June and nineteenth, honors June 19th, 1865. It’s the day General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War and tell enslaved Africans they were free.
“The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued two years earlier. And apparently they had not gotten the word they were free because of the nature of how the Emancipation Proclamation was carried out,” said L’Merchie Frazier, director of education and interpretation at the Museum of African American History (MAAH).
General Granger had marched through Galveston reading General Order No. 3 which stated: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
“President Abraham Lincoln is no longer alive when General Granger issues the order. Significantly, there are a number of Confederate states that are going in and out of being registered as free,” Frazier said. “It’s a very tumultuous time. But that issue of General Order No. 3 is the important celebration that we have today.”
According to a Congressional Research report, Texans began observing the day in 1866. By 1980, Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday. It’s not a federal holiday, but 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize the Emancipation Day. In Boston, the homecoming happens at Franklin Park.
“Families come together, it really is a recognition of that whole aspect of freedom,” said MAAH President & CEO Leon Wilson. “It’s one big family party; it really is about caring about those who care about you.”
On Wednesday, the Boston City Council unanimously passed a resolution to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Mayor Marty Walsh said he supported the matter but that there would need to be a “legislative change.” He called on citizens to reflect on its significance.
“I want to urge everyone from every race and every background to reflect on what this holiday means,” said Walsh outside City Hall Thursday. “Reflect on the suffering and the injustice that Black people experienced and continue to experience.”
The reflection and reckoning, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing is bringing new energy into commemorating the day. Nike, Target, Twitter, the NFL and The New York Times have designated Juneteenth a paid company holiday. So has Harvard, the university announced it will close Friday. Santander Bank will shut down branches early.
“It’s a way hopefully for conversations to spark at some of these companies, universities, about the history of Black people in this country and how it’s still impacting us to this day,” said Sheena Collier, founder and CEO of The Collier Connection, a network for Black professionals.
To encourage and support a conversation that Frazier said, “will underscore this moment,” the MAAH is developing programming that will be made public in the coming weeks.
“We at the museum are now having an opportunity to help elaborate on this. This is what it is, this is why it is, and this is why it’s important,” said Wilson.
Juneteenth celebrations are happening across Greater Boston starting this Friday. From poetry readings, to musical performances and exhibits, there’s something for everyone.
Here’s a list of where to find some of them: