JuneTeenth and the American Civil War


Clea Hollis. Image via Tribune-Democrat


Juneteenth, June 19, has been called Freedom Day, Emancipation Day and Black Independence Day. The significance of the different titles for the same holiday could be unraveled in the history of the American Civil War.

The title, Emancipation Day is associated with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, issued as a document to free American slaves.

However, that document was a misnomer, because all slaves were not freed. Only 11 southern states, that upheld the practice of slave owners, were part of the Confederate Army.

Other southern states not included in the confederation were exempt from freeing their slaves.

Therefore, the Emancipation Proclamation freed 3 million Confederate slaves and excluded slaves in other states.

With the slow horseback express media of 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was delivered to Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1885.

During the delivery time – two years and six months – Texas slaves were not emancipated, until Major General Gordan Granger’s enforcement.

General orders No. 3, headquarters district of Texas, June 19, 1865: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance and with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves all 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 freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages.” – By order of Major General Granger.

For solidarity, African Americans have chosen to acknowledge Juneteenth as Emancipation Day. Juneteenth was first celebrated as a state holiday in 1980 in Texas. Gov. Tom Wolf officially legislated Juneteenth as a Pennsylvania state holiday in 2019.

Forty-six states now celebrate Juneteenth.

The Spanish introduced slavery to the colonies in the early 16th Century. The subjects were probably captured, mostly from the Igbo Kingdom. A small group of about 20 Africans was brought to the colonies as indentured slaves and could earn their freedom. However, with the arrival of the 17th century, slaves had become property.

Therefore, when the founding fathers wrote, “all men are created equal,” they did not include women or slaves.

The 1800 census tabulated 893,600 slaves; however, by 1860, the census recorded 3.9 million slaves.

Slavery was adopted by taking advantage of people of color, with many different languages, from different cultures, who could not communicate with each other. To control the slaves the masters forbade them to learn to read or write.

Therefore, despite the restriction, many slaves were brave and intelligent to overcome barriers shaking the chains of slavery.

During my grade school, high school education, and even college, examples of African Americans being intellectually inferior and not expected to compete in the classroom after they were given the “privilege” to attend school have generated unconscious bias about the descendants of slaves.

However. research today identifies the descendants of the Igbo Tribe from Nigeria, as one of the most intelligent groups who are living among us in Johnstown and the United States.

The Igbo villages were raided and the people were captured and put on slave ships, mostly to America. During the Atlantic slave trade, between 1650 and 1900, 1.4 million slaves were shipped to America, from the Bight of Biafra Kingdom. An estimated 60% of Black Americans can be linked to the Igbo Kingdom.

The National Juneteenth Observation Foundation creates upgraded curricula for schools to present an accurate presentation of slavery and the achievements of Black Americans.

The Johnstown Branch, NAACP will celebrate Juneteenth with a week-long celebration, of activities in downtown Johnstown. The celebration is open to the Johnstown community June 12-19.

Alan Cashaw, president of the Johnstown Branch, NAACP announced the theme of 2021 Juneteenth as “Get Right Ready.” Jim Crow, policies of segregation, discrimination and exclusion post-slavery, have systemically caused the Black population of the U.S. not to advance themselves in this society. Systemic racism has impeded wealth building, education, health care, religious freedom, employment – business ownership – equal protection under the law and access to voting.

The shackles of slavery will forever be a weighted tragedy in the hearts of people of color. As we celebrate 2021 Juneteenth, let us go forth as a community appreciating all citizens.

Clea P. Hollis is secretary of African American Heritage Society Inc.

Clea P. Hollis is secretary of African American Heritage Society Inc.