One of my favorite episodes of the television show The Jeffersons, is when Florence the maid, (played by the talented Marla Gibbs), upon finding out that her new employers who live in a penthouse are black asks, “How come we overcame and nobody told me?” History records such a time, when black Americans overcame years of adversity, but in one area of the nation, did not find out until much later.
On January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freeing African descendants who were enslaved in American, was signed, by President Abraham Lincoln. The night before many slaves had been praying in churches, waiting and thanking the Creator in expectancy of this news. This is the origin of why many African American churches have watch night services on New Year’s Eve.
Somehow, unlike on The Wizard of Oz, this joyous news was not immediately spread, that the wicked old witch,(slavery) at last was dead. It was two and one half years later, on June 19th 1865, when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, went to Galveston, TX, announcing that the Civil war was over, and that the captives were now free.
There are two theories as to why there was a delay in announcing this historical event. One is that the information was purposely withheld. The other is that the messenger bearing the news to Galveston, was killed. From this point, Juneteenth became an annual celebration. it is the oldest and most significant acknowledgement of the freedom of American slaves.
In Roanoke Va., there is a Juneteenth observation the Saturday closest to each 19th day of the 6th month in Washington Park, in Northwest Roanoke. From noon until 5:00 p.m., people of all races enjoy free food, music, singing, praise dancing and speakers. Non profit organizations also set up booths where they share information, regarding their particular cause.
In other localities Juneteenth is noted with parades, races, cookouts, and even Miss Juneteenth pageants. Today there is no chance that news of a big event would take 2 and 1/2 years to spread. Because of the Internet, at the click of a button information will be around the world almost instantly.