WQPT PBS in association with The Friends of MLK will air and Livestream a local celebration held at the TMBC at Lincoln Center on Saturday, June 19. (Broadcast and streaming information will be posted when it becomes available.)
The celebratory Juneteenth program will showcase local cultural performances including, music, poetry, storytelling, and dance. While this event is a celebration of the abolition of slavery, it will also help deepen the understanding of the systemic issues of oppression, inequality, and racism facing the Quad City Black community.
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas. He informed the enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. This momentous occasion has been celebrated as Juneteeth—a combination of June and 19—for over 150 years.
Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved people in the United States. However, the freedom promised by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863—and the official legal end of slavery—did not occur until the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865. Today 47 states celebrate.
Here in the Quad Cities region, an annual festival is held in Scott County to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
The Friends of MLK (FoMLK) empowers and encourages residents of the Quad City region to better understand civil and human rights issues for all races, colors, and creeds, as exemplified by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
TMBC at The Lincoln Center in Davenport is a hub for resources, professional services, programs and events for the African American community in the Quad Cities.
On “Freedom’s Eve,” or the eve of January 1, 1863, the first Watch Night services took place. On that night, enslaved and free African Americans gathered in churches and private homes all across the country awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. At the stroke of midnight, prayers were answered as all enslaved people in Confederate States were declared legally free. Union soldiers, many of whom were black, marched onto plantations and across cities in the south reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation spreading the news of freedom in Confederate States. Only through the Thirteenth Amendment did emancipation end slavery throughout the United States.
But not everyone in Confederate territory would immediately be free. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. As a result, in the westernmost Confederate state of Texas, enslaved people would not be free until much later. Freedom finally came on June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as "Juneteenth," by the newly freed people in Texas.
The post-emancipation period known as Reconstruction (1865-1877) marked an era of great hope, uncertainty, and struggle for the nation as a whole. Formerly enslaved people immediately sought to reunify families, establish schools, run for political office, push radical legislation and even sue slaveholders for compensation. Given the 200+ years of enslavement, such changes were nothing short of amazing. Not even a generation out of slavery, African Americans were inspired and empowered to transform their lives and their country.
Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Although it has long celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans.
Source: National Museum of African American History & Culture