For a celebration that seems new to many, Juneteenth has an extensive history.
Born in Texas, it commemorates the first news of freedom delivered to slaves in Galveston by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his Union troops on June 19, 1865. The fact it occurred 29.5 months after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and more than 10 weeks after the Civil War ended at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, is a reflection of the era’s information flow, political tensions and institutionalized oppression.
It is the nation’s oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Historians say reaction to the news ranged from pure shock to wild jubilation.
The Juneteenth celebration became known as a time for reassuring each other, prayer and family gatherings. It also took on festival qualities with barbecues, fishing, rodeos and baseball among the more common pursuits.
While long revered in Texas, the event has been spotty elsewhere and only gaining prominence in recent decades. The fact it’s becoming more prolific is evidenced by observances this weekend in Hardin County and next Wednesday on the actual holiday in LaRue County.
Sponsored by the local NAACP chapter, the Hardin County celebration begins at 6:30 tonight at the Christian Life Center, 401 W. Poplar St. in Elizabethtown. Formal proclamations will be read plus fashion shows and a formal meal. Tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 12 and younger.
Saturday’s events at the same site are free. Scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., it features information booths, children’s activities and displays celebrating prominent local African Americans.
In Hodgenville next week, a wreath-laying ceremony, public reading and small reception will be held appropriately at Lincoln Square, where statues of the Great Emancipator will flank participants. Everyone is encouraged to wear red in commemoration of blood shed during the Civil War.
As lovers of freedom, any observance and celebration of liberty is worthy of celebration. Hopefully, these local events can find a recurring spot on community calendars and not be seen as a novelty.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.