Beyond the cultural and historic significance, Juneteenth - a federal holiday observed every year on June 19 - for many is a time to reflect and remember.
Greenville business owner, Navy veteran, mother and community advocate Pamela Adams said when she rises the morning of June 19, her thoughts will turn to those who’ve gone before her.
“I will remember my ancestors and I will try to imagine that moment that they experienced – when the Union soldiers came and told them they no longer had to labor - they were no longer enslaved, that this horrible atrocity was over,” she said. “I’m going to remember them and make sure I do right by them and do my best to remember what they did and take advantage of my freedoms and make sure my girls know the same. That is our heritage, and we are their legacy.”
Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed more than 3 million enslaved African Americans living in in the Confederacy in early 1863, it took more than two years for word to reach Texas where, on June 19, 1865, federal troops entered Galveston and announced that the enslaved living there were free.
A year later, the state held the nation’s first Juneteenth celebration in to commemorate the event.
But Juneteenth did not become a recognized federal holiday until President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in 2021.
“It’s a dream come true that Juneteenth has become a federal holiday so that people can understand what all this remembering means,” poet Glenis Redmond of the said of holiday. “It’s not just a celebration, it’s a memorial of those who came before us. It’s both bitter and sweet.”
For Ruben Hays, the man behind the Juneteenth GVL Mega Fest happening in Falls Park June 18, it’s a time of thanksgiving and community.
“We really just want to educate people as to the importance and significance of Juneteenth, the flag we use and bringing awareness of the needs we have,” he said. “We want to work together more closely and align corporately.”
The flag, a lone star surrounded by a nova (a new star), is meant to signify not only Texas as the Lone Star state, but the idea of a new beginning for those who’d waited so long to be free.
“For me, Juneteenth represents freedom, unity and justice for all,” he said. “I know I’m going to wake up feeling thankful for the vision God has given me. He has provided all the resources to make it come together.”