AfriGeneas States Research Forum
[VA] Free At Last
Free at Last
The slaves in Texas had been free for two and a half years, but they didn't know it. Surrounded by Confederate soldiers and geographically isolated, news of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863 did not reach black people in Texas until two months after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Union General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston on June 19, 1865 and immediately proclaimed the slaves' back-dated freedom.
Organizers described the Juneteenth Celebration as an opportunity for black Americans to take ownership of a day that truly marks their independence, from slavery at least. Museum volunteer Randy Stevens helped organize the city's first celebration. "We as black people celebrate the 4th of July, which did not actually free us," Stevens explained.
"The same people who penned the Declaration of Independence considered us at the time to be two-thirds of a person."
The festival will present a lecture on "Africa's Gifts to the World," an introductory workshop on the West African language Yoruba, a workshop on researching family genealogy and a lecture on the African origins of African-American foods.