Juneteenth holiday weekend approaches

Published 9:15 am Thursday, June 16, 2022

The term Juneteenth is a blend of the words June and nineteenth. The holiday has also been called Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day.

Often celebrated at first with church picnics and speeches, the holiday spread across the nation and internationally as Black Texans moved elsewhere.

The vast majority of states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or a day of recognition, like Flag Day, and most states hold celebrations. Juneteenth is a paid holiday for state employees in Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington, and hundreds of companies give workers a day off for Juneteenth.

Email newsletter signup

President Joe Biden signed a bill June 18, 2021 that was passed by Congress to set aside Juneteenth, or June 19th, as a federal holiday. “I hope this is the beginning of a change in the way we deal with one another,” Biden said.

The Senate approved the bill unanimously; only 14 House Republicans — many representing states that were part of the slave-holding Confederacy in the 19th century — opposed the measure.

The History of Juneteenth (June 19th)

Juneteenth celebration started with the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the South in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Laura Smalley, freed from a plantation near Bellville, Texas, remembered in a 1941 interview that the man she referred to as “old master” had gone to fight in the Civil War and came home without telling the people he enslaved what had happened.

“Old master didn’t tell, you know, they was free,” Smalley said at the time. “I think now they say they worked them, six months after that. Six months. And turn them loose on the 19th of June. That’s why, you know, we celebrate that day.”

Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived at Galveston on June 19, 1865, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. That was more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia.

Granger delivered General Order No. 3, which said: “The people of Texas are informed 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.”

The next year, the now-free people started celebrating Juneteenth in Galveston. Its observance has continued around the nation and the world since. Events include concerts, parades and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Where to celebrate Juneteenth

In Oxford, Juneteenth celebrations began early with “Linen on the Lawn” on June 11. The event was free, public concert featuring live music by The Soul Tones.

On Thursday, June 16, Oxford Juneteenth will host the Miss Oxford Juneteenth Pageant in the Burns-Belfry Museum located on 710 E Jackson Avenue. Contestants will compete in five different categories: Little Miss Oxford Juneteenth, Junior Teen Miss Oxford Juneteenth, Teen Miss Oxford Juneteenth and Miss Oxford.

Doors will open to the public at 5:30 p.m. and the pageant will begin at 6 p.m. Entry costs $5 (cash only).

Celebrations will finish this Saturday, June 18 at Oxford Intermediate School from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Vendor booths will be on site to sell their products, services or refreshments.

The public is invited by organizers to participate in a day of food, music and fellowship.

For more information on the Juneteenth Festival, visit Oxford Juneteenth’s website at www.oxfordjuneteenth.org or Facebook @OxfordMSJuneteenth.

Friendly reminders

As Juneteenth is officially a federal holiday, but since it falls on a Sunday this year, the holiday will be observed by federal banks on Monday, June 20. Tellers and other staff will have the day off, and drive-through service is typically closed, too, unless it’s automated. ATMs should still be accessible for customers.

However, some major banks will remain open on Monday. Please check your chosen bank’s hours in advanced.