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National Commentary

JUNETEENTH (June 19th) Its Symbolism, Substance and Significance

By John L. Horton

One hundred and fifty-five years after slaves were declared free, I can imagine the joy and jubilation in Galveston, Texas, when the proclamation was read. On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger recited the order that included these words: ”This involves an absolute equality of personal and property rights between masters and slaves.”

The momentous occasion has become known as ”Juneteenth,” a compression of June and 19th. It’s the oldest celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States, marking the day that Union soldiers delivered the news to slaves in Texas that they were free — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect.

At the time of the 1863 proclamation, Texas was not under the control of the Union army, and slave masters conspired to prevent slaves from finding out that they were free.

There are reasons to celebrate, and lessons to be learned from, Juneteenth. We must understand and sustain the notion that we are somebody special. We must project that we love and respect ourselves, individually and as a people. This empowerment process recognizes that history, heritage, culture and values determine one’s attitude and eventual outcome in life.

By understanding and fulfilling the essence of Juneteenth, African Americans will be able to better resolve the challenges and obstacles before us 155 years later.

Notwithstanding our uniqueness in American history, it is now time for us to transform ourselves from the weak and pitiful into the strong and powerful. It can be done. Most of us are capable of giving a lot more than we do to our common cause. All of us can give something.

All of us, especially our men, must do more for our children and our communities. We need to become farmers. We need to plant the crops — our children and communities — and nourish them to fruition. Collectively, we are the providers and protectors of our children and our families,

indeed, of our society. And that is as it should be.

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The commemoration of liberation, celebrated Friday, June 19, should have everlasting meaning to us as a people. Let us celebrate every day the joy and jubilation of our forebears in Galveston as we remember what they endured to secure freedom for all .

Let us honor and remember our ancestors. Long live Juneteenth!

John L. Horton resides in Norfolk, Va., nd is a frequent contributor to the New Journal and Guide.

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