Slaves in Galveston, TX celebrated on June 19, 1865 under the assumption that the Emancipation Proclamation freed them. However, Abraham Lincoln had no control over the states the Proclamation attempted to control, so slaves were not officially freed until the passing of the 13th Amendment — after Lincoln regained power over the nation. Therefore, the celebrations on that hot June night can be seen as invalid and premature.
The history of Juneteenth is a complex one. Recognizing our Galveston ancestors' misunderstanding through hindsight, our festival is not merely a celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, but of the ongoing struggle for freedom by blacks in America. It is a commemoration of the numerous slave revolts during which blacks took their freedom, of those who shed blood during the Civil War, of the 13th Amendment that officially freed the slaves, of those who shed blood during the Civil Rights movement, of those who fight for our freedom today on the battlefields of federal courts, and those who will arm themselves with the weapons of critical thought and action in preparation for the perilous struggle of the emancipation of the black American in future generations. Therefore, we call the celebration on June 20, 2009: A CELEBRATION OF FREEDOM.
In the historic 9th Street District, we will celebrate in every way we know how. Our singers will use their voices, turning hymns of pain into songs of praise. Our speakers will continue the ancient oratory tradition that our ancestors passed down through the generations to uplift the race and unify for change. Our business leaders will come together and display the prosperity that each individual can achieve and surpass through hard work and dedication even in the face of adversity. Our children will be exposed to the history that our elders made and the heritage they must embrace and continue. Our faces are mirrors of the joy felt by slaves in Texas when they saw freedom on the horizon. We strive not to dwell on the past, with this celebration, but to reflect on it, embracing a rich history while moving towards a more prosperous future. This is NOT a celebration of a document. It is a celebration of a painful, brutal, ugly yet timeless, rich, beautiful, and ultimately victorious struggle for LIBERATION.