June 19 1865 is when word of emancipation finally reached Texas and its slave population. The news was delivered two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and about two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered.
But what did "emancipation" mean for the no-longer slaves? Many were quickly reabsorbed into an economic system that looked similar to the slavery life. Others found liberty by establishing Freedom Colonies across the South, town-like communities of former slaves that frequently became self-sustaining. Nevertheless, the freedom to self-determine and pursue one's abilities and dreams to the fullest would be generations away. And even today there is still work to be done.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. And it’s now a red letter day on many calendars across the nation. Coast to coast Juneteenth is recognized as a day to remember emancipation but it's not a national holiday and some wonder if it's meaning is fading.
Discussing their Juneteenth memories and impressions on Texas Matters are Professor Karla Broadus director of the University of Texas at San Antonio African American Studies program, Professor Latimore Carey the chair of the history department at Trinity University and Lisa Jackson a San Antonio based entrepreneur and marketing expert.