By Margaret Hicks

Staff Writer

mhicks@theoklahomaeagle.net

 

Tulsa (Okla.) Juneteenth 2017 Partners have orchestrated an awesome five-day festival, June 15-19, 2017, featuring vendors, food trucks, live music, art and children’s activities in the historic Greenwood District; themed “Heritage Through Art and Music.”

Most events are free & all are open to the public. For a schedule of events visit www.tulsajuneteenth.org, email info@tulsajuneteenth.or, or call 918-401-0507.

 

2017 Juneteenth Partners

            The Following businesses and organizations have partnered to make this event happen:  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Society, Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, Greenwood Cultural Center, Living Arts, The Oklahoma Eagle, Oklahoma State University, Biker Boyz Weekend 2017, Downtown Coordinating Council, and Guthrie Green. Charity Marcus is the event coordinator.

 

Historical Overview

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  It dates to June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, were ordered to Galveston, Texas to read to the people of Texas General Order Number 3:

“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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

 

Note, this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which become official January 1, 1863.  Lincoln’s Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” One can imagine that the reaction to this profound news “ranged from pure shock to jubilation,” depending on one being a slave or a slave owner.

Research shows that there is no clear explanation as to why it took two and a half years for the news to reach Texas. After all, the Pony Express travel from St. Joseph, Mo. to Sacramento, Calif. In 10 days.

Attempts to explain this delay have yielded a few versions as to why the delay. Three of the most popular being “…the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.”

In 1980, Texas was the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. The legislation was introduced by Democratic freshman State Representative Albert Edwards.  Juneteenth is a “skeleton crew” day in the state; government offices do not close but agencies may operate with reduced staff.

By 2008, nearly half the country observed Juneteenth as a ceremonial observance. By May 2016, 45 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or a day of observance.

States that do not recognize it are Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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