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What's Juneteenth? The History Explained

Juneteenth Lincoln Museum
Posted at 3:10 PM, Jun 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-20 00:56:58-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Even though it became a Federal Holiday just this week, Juneteenth has been celebrated for decades among Black communities in the U.S. To understand such a day as this, we'd have to go back to 1863. That's when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law by President Lincoln.

Texas was the last of the confederate states to rejoin the Union after the Civil War. During the War, there were talks of the state succeeding from the rest of the U.S. As a result, around the time slavery was abolished, slave owners from other states would bring their "property" to Texas, in the hopes of it becoming its own nation .

"If you are going to tell the truth you have to talk about the ugly part as well," said Dr. Anthony Young, President of the Rocky Mountain Association of Black Psychologists.

Dr. Young, who is also a member of the NAACP, says even after slavery was abolished many slave owners were unwilling to give up their free labor, even concealing the fact that African-Americans were free. Two years later, Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to demand the slave owners either free the slaves, or pay them for their labor.

"I definitely celebrate the fact that my ancestors were freed, but we have to hold accountable those people who held them enslaved for two and half years over what was legal in America," Dr. Young explained.

To this day, Juneeteenth is commemorated with festivals ans parades. Pueblo has always held Juneteenth festivities and Shauna Sankey has helped plan them all. She spent years getting petitions signed, to make this day a holiday.

"Making it come to fruition is beautiful," Sankey said. "I've been involved in Juneteenth since I was a grasshopper," she explained. Shauna even helped organize this year's Juneteenth Pageant, that was streamed virtually.

"The whole pageant is to help these young ladies to see their potential and understand that they can move mountains with the amount of potential that they have, and in the midst of that teaching them the history behind Juneteenth," Sankey said.

Both Sankey and Young say, communities need to go beyond the festivals and fun, and educate themselves on why we all have something to celebrate on Juneteenth.