Today is June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, which celebrates the ending of American slavery. President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863. However, it took two and a half years for the news to reach all the slaves in Texas. After the surrender of General Lee in April 1865, Union soldiers were able to make their way into Texas. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston with the news that the war was over and all slaves were now free. Juneteenth celebrations began! The celebration has always been big in Texas, but the tradition has been spreading to other states and even other countries.
While America won her freedom on July 4, 1776, not everyone was free. Juneteenth is America's Second Independence Day and lead the way for the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. There is a growing movement and a petition attempting to establish the 19th of June as National Juneteenth Independence Day. Recently Boston's City Council signed a Resolution 0836 declaring June 19, 2006, as Juneteenth Day in Boston.
I've recently been working on my family tree and have been able to go back to the 1840's, when my paternal great-grandfather was born. Slavery seems so remote, but when you look at the span of a life, a real person, not just the number of years, it really is not that far back. It's only four generations and he was born a slave. It really makes me think of all that he and all my ancestors went through and how my life is so different.
Yesterday, was Father's Day and I spent it with my family. I showed them my blog and told them about this post. June is also National Soul Food Month. I asked my parents how they defined soul food. I can't write everything, because it ended up being quite a heated discussion. I'm a third generation Bostonian on my mom's side. My paternal grandmother was from the south, so there were some regional differences happening between my parents. Macaroni and cheese versus rice and black-eyed beans versus black-eyed peas caused quite the controversy!
My mom said that soul food came from the slaves taking the leftovers that nobody else wanted and making something delicious and nutritious. The foods were high in fat and cholesterol, because that was needed for a society that worked from sun-up until sun-down. All those calories were used. And my dad describe the making of soul food as improvisation, like jazz. Yes, I'm a child who was born in the 60's. Civil Rights Movement in full effect! I'm black and I'm proud!