Galveston, Texas, 1866 set the stage for the first celebration of Juneteenth in Texas. This year marks the first official year it is celebrated across the United States as a federal holiday. Across the nation, particularly in Texas and the South, July 19, or Juneteenth as it is familiarly referred to, has been heralded as the day that Texas slaves found out that they had been free for over two years.
The Civil War lasted from April 1861 through April 1865. Amid the first year of a horrible war that was dividing the United States, Julia Ward Howe was moved to write the lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Two years later, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This document outlawed slavery in America. It has been widely said that slaves were sold South and West as the news traveled. There were no telephones during that time, and many could not read the few printed newspapers.
Therefore, it was determined that the Union Army would send soldiers South to spread the message of freedom. Many families have stories passed down through the generations of the day federal troops docked in Galveston Bay and spread to the Southern plantations. Since that time, June 19 has been a day in which freedom is commemorated with cooking, parades, gatherings, and a great deal of celebration in the black community and beyond.
Liberty County loves tradition. On Saturday, June 19, 2021, there was commemorating in numerous parts of the county. Many families had their own private celebrations. Cleveland held a “Celebrate Freedom” Parade, which began on E. Houston St., went across Peach Ave., and culminated at Samuel Wiley Park. Food trucks, games, and much fun were had at the park by folks of all ages and from every walk of life. Some citizens watched the festivities from the comfort of their yards located right outside the park.
It was Crawfish boiling contest time in the afternoon at Henderson Day Park, Dayton. There was colossal signage boasting, “Happy Juneteenth!” Each team had its cooking aprons and team T-shirts. The mudbugs ranged from mild to hot and hotter, and there were tents all around the park. Music played as people sampled one another’s cuisine.