Its literal historical roots are in Texas, but Juneteenth is gaining popularity across the country as an occasion to celebrate one of the most important events in American history--the end of slavery in America. Although July 4th. marks the American colonies' 1776 declaration of independence from Britain, the Founding Fathers did not include America's enslaved people among "all men" who had been "created equal." It took a bloody Civil War and Constitutional amendments to end slavery, and Juneteenth celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation, issued almost a century after the Declaration of Independence. Texas....June 19, 1865
January 1, 1863 Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all enslaved people in the rebellious states were free. It was military strategy--the southern states were still fighting as the Confederacy. While the Proclamation achieved an intended effect of encouraging many enslaved people to flee plantations and join the union forces, it proclaimed the freedom of only those enslaved people held in the Confederacy, which did not recognize Lincoln's authority.
Over two years later, on June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, leading federal occupation forces some three months after the official end of the Civil War. He immediately proclaimed Texas to be under U.S. authority and re-issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He could hardly have expected his action to give birth to an annual African American freedom celebration.
Celebration of June 19 as "Juneteenth" or " Emancipation Day" quickly spread through parts of the southwest, including Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. To the freed people Juneteenth had much greater significance than the Fourth of July and was celebrated with community picnics featuring the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, feasting, choir singing, prayers, and speeches. Although the popularity of Juneteenth declined in the 1940's, the traditional celebration has been "re-discovered" in recent decades as an appropriate occasion to remember the legacy of slavery and celebrate emancipation. In 1980 Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official state holiday.
Cincinnati....1988...20112 Cincinnati's Juneteenth tradition began in 1988 as a neighborhood festival--attracting some 1500 participants to a neighborhood park. As it's grown, the annual Festival has continued to reflect its origins in a racially integrated community, with both multi-racial organization and attendance. In the following years the Festival has mushroomed, with attendance estimates as high as 15-20,000. Festival features have included such diverse, family-centered (and free!) activities as traditional story telling, magic acts, sack races, sweet potato pie bake-off, music (blues, African drumming & dancing, gospel, jazz, reggae, etc.). And Festival vendors offer a wide variety of food, clothing, art, folk crafts, ethnic literature, etc. In 1993 the Festival moved to Eden Park, overlooking downtown Cincinnati and the Ohio River.
2012 Will Be Our 25th Annual Festival The Festival will return to Eden Park on June 16, 2012, with feature attractions including historical reenactments and exhibits, craft demonstrations. The Festival is completely non-profit. It is staffed entirely by volunteers, organized by Juneteenth Cincinnati , with the invaluable help of many sponsors and donors.