On Saturday, June 17, the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association (SISCA) will celebrate Juneteenth. This will be our thirty-eighth year celebrating this important American holiday. Since our first celebration in 1979, we have gathered at the Carver School Grounds in Brackettville, Texas, to celebrate freedom. Juneteenth (or June Nineteenth, Emancipation Day, or Freedom Day) commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that enslaved Africans living in Texas learned that they were free.
This year, we will present a special Juneteenth program beginning at 10 AM. Afterward, we will have a barbecue plate sale, which will begin at 11 AM. During our program, we plan to discuss the history of Juneteenth and recreate some of our traditions. Juneteenth means freedom, and we are planning to celebrate just that.
On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. On June 19, standing on the balcony of Galveston's Ashton Villa, Granger read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3,” announcing the total emancipation of those who had been enslaved: “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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere” (Wikipedia).
Can you imagine what it must have felt like for all of those who heard this? To hear that you are free?
Upon hearing this information, the once-enslaved Africans took the streets and rejoiced. It was a truly joyous occasion. The following year, the newly freed men organized the first Juneteenth celebration in Galveston. Everyone dressed in their finest clothes on that special day. There was a parade and a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Then there was food. Traditionally, red food was served. It is said that this was to honor the blood that had been spilled by those seeking freedom (“Reviving the Tea Cake of Juneteenth Parties Past” by Michele Kayal for The Plate/National Geographic), so they ate things like watermelon and red velvet cake and drank red soda and hibiscus tea. They also ate special cookies called tea cakes, and there was the singing of songs.
From these humble beginnings, a new holiday began. For over 150 years, African Americans have celebrated the day that we learned we were free. Interestingly, the holiday has grown into something very personal for many people. Every Juneteenth, I think it is important to ask, “What does freedom mean, and how do I honor this freedom?” Many paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and for their sacrifice, they must be held in reverence and honored with constant gratitude. We invite you to come and celebrate Juneteenth with us. For more information, you can: call Augusta Pines at 830.309.4663, visit our website at www.seminolecemeteryassociation.com, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow us on Facebook at Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery Association.
Note: This blog appeared as an article in the 6/15/17 of the Kinney County Post.