Juneteenth Celebration in Albany Will Be Virtual June 20th

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On Saturday, June 20th, Albany will bring together the community, cultural organizations, and entrepreneurs to commemorate slavery’s abolition in the US, and celebrate South Pearl Street’s vibrancy.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former ‘masters’ – attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date.

The African American Cultural Center of the Capital Region announced on May 4th that the celebration will need to be virtual due to the COVID 19 pandemic. They posted the following on their social media page, “There is no pandemic or social distancing strong enough to stop our celebration of freedom among members of the African diaspora. This may be disappointing to the thousands of people who have come to anticipate gathering in person at our campus to share love in freedom. We understand, and are working diligently to maintain all of our outdoor celebration in a virtual delivery. Performances, vendors of color, and history will continue to be the focus of the day. Please stay tuned for more information as our day of celebration approaches.”

Especially this year, this uplifting day will be deeply meaningful to reignite connectiveness.

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