SJAFB recognizes Juneteenth

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Taylor Hunter
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Juneteenth is a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States 157 years ago. June 19 was not officially recognized as an official independence day until June 17, 2021.

According to history.com, the Emancipation Proclamation, signed on Sept. 22, 1862, with an effective date of New Year's Day of 1863, was established to free the slaves in the U.S. and Jan. 31,1865, the 13th Amendment was passed to abolish the institution of slavery.

According to the New York Times, the 250,000 enslaved people in Texas however, would not know freedom until June 19, 1865, when Union Gen. Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. They took possession of the state and enforced the emancipation of its slaves. Those lawfully freed then rejoiced in the streets of Galveston in jubilation. Lawfully freed, but far from free, many were punished for taking advantage of their new found rights.

While black service members were allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces after the emancipation, they were segregated in the Bureau of Colored Troops. According to archives.gov, 10 percent of the U.S. Army was black men by the end of the civil war in 1865.

“Juneteenth is important in that it marked the end of slavery in the U.S. as the Union troops made it to Texas to release those who hadn’t heard the news of the end of the Civil War,” said retired Master Sgt. Brian Wade. “Even though they were deemed “free”, it still wasn’t recognized without laws and still isn’t fully recognized based upon what we as people go through on a daily basis.”

According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, even with new found freedom, many were still denied the use of public land across many parts of Texas. Freed people collected funding to purchase land specifically for their communities' increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings. These areas included Emancipation Park in Houston, Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia and Emancipation Park in Austin.

Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas in 1966. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, praying, gathering with family members and almost always focused on education and self improvement. As the acceptance of the holiday expanded, the holiday, celebrated June 19, coined the term Juneteenth.

“Juneteenth is an opportunity to reflect on our ancestors who lived through the atrocities of a nation who loved them just enough to build for it, but not enough to care for them and the negativity generated by granting them their “freedom,” said Wade. “It gives another day to understand that we are roughly two generations removed from further legislation attempting to create a level of equality that is still not fully recognized by members in this nation.”

Today, Juneteenth is growing within communities and organizations throughout the country. It is a chance to gather with family, measure progress toward freedoms and teach future generations the importance of self-improvement. A number of local and national Juneteenth organizations have taken their place alongside older organizations – all with the mission to promote and cultivate knowledge and appreciation of African-American history and culture.

“Juneteenth is the beginning of success in our nation and a realized dream from the preaching of Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Senior Master Sgt. Aaron Waddy, 4th Logistic readiness Squadron first sergeant. “It means that a path has been paved so my family and children can be happy and free.”

Today, as Juneteenth is recognized as a federal holiday, the U.S. military and others around the world show homage to the sacrifice of those enslaved and those who stood beside them to represent freedom for all.