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Juneteenth - A Celebration Delayed
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Today is June 19 – Juneteenth – a date often overlooked and traditionally not widely celebrated nor recognized for its historical significance. 

Recent social unrest however, has caused a collective awakening of sorts. This awakening has given way to a reckoning over the insidious nature of racism. From this reckoning will come necessary changes in how we deal with one another as human beings, and all of this will be good.

In many ways, June 19th puts an exclamation point on this reckoning. Why? Because on this day in 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas, were notified they had been freed – some two and a half years after the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation, after the death of Lincoln, and after the effective end of the Civil War itself. Union Major General Gordon Granger, arriving in Galveston in June with enough troops to force adherence to the Proclamation's mandates, issued what is now known as "Order No. 3." In pertinent part, the Order notified the people of Texas that:

"… in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.  This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor…"

Unfortunately, as we know, words are one thing; acts are another. Order No. 3, much like the Emancipation Proclamation, failed to provide immediate relief or freedom. Many of the approximately 250,000 slaves in Galveston at that time who attempted to exercise their autonomy were killed by their former slave owners. Others remained on plantations because they had to face the harsh reality of having no place else to go. 

Despite all of this confusion, violence and delay, the newly freed Black men and women of Texas ultimately found a way to celebrate and honor the day they learned of their freedom. One year after General Granger's announcement, a commemorative celebration, coined as "Juneteenth" was convened. Over the years, this celebration grew with more participation from descendants of those original slaves and eventually became nationally recognized. 

Juneteenth thus is a time of reverence and remembrance of the harsh reality that freedom for Black Americans has not come easily. It has been demanded and fought for through unwavering resolve, advocacy and belief in the promise of the Declaration of Independence, whose anniversary we shortly also shall celebrate – that ALL Americans are entitled to equality under the law.  

In recognition of the day's significance, Miller Canfield's offices will close for the day at noon Eastern time. We encourage you to celebrate the basic human right to be free with gratitude and joy. It is a precious gift.

For those who may wish to visit and/or support organizations that promote and preserve the history of Black Americans, you may wish to look at the following options: 

Happy Juneteenth, Everyone!


Tags: Diversity
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