By Nafeesa Shabazz-Edges
The executive order of the Emancipation Proclamation was amended on January 1, 1863. However, many plantation owners continued to hold enslaved Black people captive. The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution abolished slavery on January 31, 1865. But it was not until June 19, 1865, that the announcement of the end of the civil war and the end of slavery was declared in Galveston, Texas. Juneteenth is the symbolic date of June 19, 1865, representing the Freedom of the enslaved African descendants of the United States.
Locals in Texas first celebrated Juneteenth in 1866 with community-centric events, such as parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, and musical performances. From these communal fellowships, more lively efforts were born to give recognition of the proclaimed day of Freedom. However, aside from the celebration and acknowledgment displayed through festival artistry, the aftermath of slavery widens the path for systemic disenfranchisement of African Americans. The promise of Slavery Reparations for freed slaves to receive 40 acres (about twice the area of Chicago’s Millennium Park) and a mule was rescinded.
The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. Former slave plantations such as Parchman Farm and Angola Plantation were turned into labor camps and prisons for Black Men. Servitude tactics such as the peonage system and the sharecropping cycle gradually restricted the element of Freedom for newly freed slaves. As time progressed, the Reconstruction Era ratified the 14th and 15th Amendments that gave citizenship to natural-born citizens and the right to vote for (now) African American men. However, the grandfather clause introduced in 1895 restricted voting rights to African American men whose grandfathers were not allowed to vote (due to slavery). As there were African Americans to resist, the racial terror began to intimidate and restrict their livelihoods, such as public lynchings, restrictive voting laws, and inadequate and unequal education opportunities. While there were African American communities that thrived in community and wealth, they were massacred and demolished due to racial jealousy that was incited by protecting the White Race and/or the honor of white women, such as Tulsa, Oklahoma (Black Wallstreet), Colfax, Louisiana, Wilmington, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia (1906), and Rosewood, Florida to name a few.
From being released from slavery to having restricted voting laws to more discriminatory social practices such as Jim Crow, Segregation, the War on Drugs (which was a frontal to imprison more African Americans through the crack epidemic), and now Mass Incarceration, it has been revealed the true intentions of American society were not to give African slaves the true essence of Freedom in a world that was created for human dignity. These intervals of time that lessen the success of Freedom for African Americans and the intention to disrupt Black communities and progression are why African Americans and the Freedom Struggle remain a pivotal change in History. The commencement of Juneteenth was to celebrate the end of captivity and inhumane conditions. However, we currently have symptoms of racism, hatred, and bigotry that have not been cured. As we move forward to eradicate society’s ills, we must not forget the subjugated treatment of African slaves that deprived them of knowing their place of origin, native language, religion, the right to read (to be educated), the right to vote, and humanhood.