On January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved Black people in Confederate states, at least it did on paper. About 500,000 of 3.9 million enslaved people were able to liberate themselves by escaping behind Union lines between 1863 and the end of the war in 1865. The rest – the vast majority – remained enslaved. The Emancipation Proclamation also authorized Black men to join the Union army. These men would be crucial to the Union’s war effort, especially as Northern forces swept through Confederate territory liberating enslaved populations. After the Proclamation was issued, slave owners in Mississippi and Louisiana marched more than 150,000 enslaved Black people west to Texas, beyond the reach of Union forces at the time. Texas remained under Confederate control until the spring of 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. On June 19th, 1865 in Galveston, Major General Gordon Granger announced, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” This is the day we celebrate as Juneteenth (“June” plus “nineteenth”), the day freedom came to those enslaved folks still living under Confederate control in Texas, at least symbolically. Granger’s announcement also asks the newly freed people to “remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages,” which exemplifies how ending slavery and upholding white supremacy can completely coexist, almost in the very same sentence.
Between 1916 and 1970, half of the southern Black population, nearly 6 million people, migrated north and west to escape segregation, widespread lynching, and a lack of social and economic opportunities in the Jim Crow South. This movement northward is known as the Great Migration. Black Texans took Juneteenth with them. Starting in the 1920s, Black communities celebrated in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle in the west. In Hayes Turner’s words, Juneteenth is “a potent life-giving event … a joyful retort to messages of overt racism … a public counter-demonstration to displays of Confederate glorification and a counter-memory to the valorization of the Lost Cause.” You can learn more about the history of Juneteenth in this blog we wrote.
There are Juneteenth celebrations all over the country today. In 2021, President Biden made Juneteenth National Independence Day an official federal holiday. Find Juneteenth events happening in and around Davis below.
6/4 Yolo Juneteenth Celebration at UC Davis
6/15 Dr. Clinton Lanier Author Talk at Underground Books in Sacramento
6/16-6/18 Sacramento’s Annual Juneteenth at Land Park
6/17 St. Hope Juneteenth Block Party at 40 Acres in Sacramento
Support the Black community by buying Black at the Co-op. Look for the “Black Owned” shelf tag on products from departments across the store. See all of our inclusive trade brand partners here.