A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 05, 2006
Juneteenth (June 19th, or Emancipation Day)

"Juneteenth” is the name that was used at least by 1890 for June 19, 1865. That day was also called “Emancipation Day” because it officially ended slavery in Texas.


Handbook of Texas Online
JUNETEENTH. On June 19 ("Juneteenth"), 1865, Union general Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, thus belatedly bringing about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. The tidings of freedom reached slaves gradually as individual plantation owners read the proclamation to their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. The news elicited an array of personal celebrations, some of which have been described in The Slave Narratives of Texas (1974). The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African Americanqv about their voting rights. Within a short time, however, Juneteenth was marked by festivities throughout the state, some of which were organized by official Juneteenth committees.

The day has been celebrated through formal thanksgiving ceremonies at which the hymn “Lift Every Voice” furnished the opening. In addition, public entertainment, picnics, and family reunions have often featured dramatic readings, pageants, parades, barbecues, and ball games. Blues festivals have also shaped the Juneteenth remembrance. In Limestone County, celebrants gather for a three-day reunion organized by the Nineteenth of June Organization. Some of the early emancipation festivities were relegated by city authorities to a town’s outskirts; in time, however, black groups collected funds to purchase tracts of land for their celebrations, including Juneteenth. A common name for these sites was Emancipation Park. In Houston, for instance, a deed for a ten-acre site was signed in 1872, and in Austin the Travis County Emancipation Celebration Association acquired land for its Emancipation Park in the early 1900s; the Juneteenth event was later moved to Rosewood Park. In Limestone County the Nineteenth of June Association acquired thirty acres, which has since been reduced to twenty acres by the rising of Lake Mexia.

Particular celebrations of Juneteenth have had unique beginnings or aspects. In the state capital Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1867 under the direction of the Freedmen’s Bureau and became part of the calendar of public events by 1872. Juneteenth in Limestone County has gathered “thousands” to be with families and friends. At one time 30,000 blacks gathered at Booker T. Washington Park, known more popularly as Comanche Crossing, for the event. One of the most important parts of the Limestone celebration is the recollection of family history, both under slaveryqv and since. Another of the state’s memorable celebrations of Juneteenth occurred in Brenham, where large, racially mixed crowds witness the annual promenade through town. In Beeville, black, white, and brown residents have also joined together to commemorate the day with barbecue, picnics, and other festivities.

Juneteenth declined in popularity in the early 1960s, when the civil-rights movement, with its push for integration, diminished interest in the event. In the 1970s African Americans’ renewed interest in celebrating their cultural heritage led to the revitalization of the holiday throughout the state. At the end of the decade Representative Al Edwards, a Democrat from Houston, introduced a bill calling for Juneteenth to become a state holiday. The legislature passed the act in 1979, and Governor William P. Clements, Jr., signed it into law. The first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place in 1980. 

State Holidays - Texas State Library
June
19 - Emancipation Day In Texas (partial staffing holiday)
House Bill 1016, 66th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 481. Approved June 7, 1979 and Effective January 1, 1980 in honor of the emancipation of the slaves in Texas in 1865.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: June·teenth
Pronunciation: \ˌjün-ˈtēn(t)th\
Function: noun
Etymology: blend of June and nineteenth
Date: 1903
: June 19 celebrated especially in Texas to commemorate the belated announcement there of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Juneteenth, n.
U.S.
[Blend of JUNE n. and NINETEENTH n.]
19 June, celebrated as a holiday commemorating the emancipation of African-American slaves in Texas on that date in 1865. Also more fully Juneteenth day.
Formerly celebrated chiefly in Texas and other southern states; now more widespread.
1890 Galveston (Texas) Daily News 22 May 4/4 For Galveston to send abroad for orators for its coming ‘Juneteenth’ is like carrying coal to Newcastle.
1932 J. M. BREWER in J. F. Dobie Tone Bell Easy 10 The best of tale-tellers has been some ex-slave buoyed up by the spirit of a Nineteenth of June celebrationthe ‘Juneteenth’the day on which all colored people in the South commemorate the freedom of their race from slavery.
1971 M. S. HARPER History is your own Heartbeat 38 Juneteenth, baby, we free, free at last: black man, I’m a black man.
1997 Harper’s Mag. Jan. 38/2 As a black born and raised in the North, I not only never celebrated Juneteenth Day, I had never heard of it until I was informed in barbershops by black southern immigrants.

22 May 1890, Galveston (TX) Daily News, “The State Press,” pg. 4, col. 4:
The Beaumont Recorder, colored man’s paper, says:
(...)
The Recorder says:

For Galveston to send abroad for orators for its coming “Juneteenth” is like carrying coals to Newcastle. There are about as good speakers—persons who know all about English as she is spoke—in the city by the sea as anywhere.

The Portal to Texas History
25 June 1891, Brenham (TX) Weekly Banner, pg. 7, col. 1:
There was not so many colored people in the city as usual on a Saturday evening, all of them, very near, being out at the “Juneteenth siliibration.”

13 June 1896, San Antonio (TX) Daily Light, pg. 7, col. 5:
THE JUNETEENTH SPLIT OF THE
COLORED FOLK.
Program For Riverside Park by the Rear-
backs Don’t Suit the Regulars—A
Hot Circular.

The split in the colored race regarding the Emancipation Day celebration, mention of which was made in the LIGHT Wednesday, is now widened so that irreparable damage is done.

21 May 1897, San Antonio (TX) Daily Light, pg. 8, col. 2:
JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION.
The various colored crowds which will celebrate Emancipation day on June 19th, are busily engaged in preparing for the event, and programs will shortly be out.

26 June 1902, Dallas Morning News, “The State Press,” pg. 6:
Calvert Courier-Chronicle: While the Senegambians were enjoying the Juneteenth yesterday, the Anglo-Saxons on Main street witnessed the payment of a novel wager.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Saturday, August 05, 2006 • Permalink