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Juneteenth Celebrations

June 22, 2020

Last Friday, we celebrated Juneteenth. Juneteenth (June + nineteenth), is the “most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States”, as defined by Henry Louis Gates Jr. It commemorates Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, on June 19th, 1885, bringing the order to reestablish Union control over Texas and thus the news of the 13th Amendment and the abolition of slavery to the state, two and a half years after it had taken affect. Juneteenth Day as a holiday started the year after. This holiday has managed to endure through Reconstruction and Jim Crow, gaining strength due in part to migration, freedman colonies and the Civil Rights Movement. While it has particular significance in Texas because of it’s origins, Juneteenth is a symbol of total  freedom from the slave trade across all states, including Texas.

For a more thorough history, check out this PBS history written by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

San Antonio has celebrated Juneteenth throughout the years. The San Antonio Express News covered the celebration in 1982 to 1984, which took place on E. Commerce Street and other locations. Larger celebrations took place in other Texas towns, as described in a couple oral history interviews from the Institute of Texan Cultures oral history collection. Included are Dr. I.J. Lamothe’s oral history, from Marshall, TX, as well as Marian and A.L. Holbert interviews, from Palestine, TX. Their conversations on Juneteenth can be found on pages 85-87 and 32-34, respectively.

Every year, UTSA holds a Juneteenth Day celebration. Including poetry and musical performances as well as a performance by the African American Studies students, it is a lively event.juneteenth Last year, Special Collections tabled at the event to show materials from the Peyton Colony Records, a freedman’s colony (just north of San Antonio), as well as the Washington Family papers, of which a large portion are digitized and can be accessed here. There was also a bill of sale for a slave from the Israel Worsham papers from before 1885, which was read aloud by Dr. Karla Broadus to a very powerful and somber effect. UTSA Libraries also tabled to provide more than 60 books and DVDs for check out to students and faculty that attended the celebration. This year, with the spread of COVID-19, UTSA still held the celebration virtually on rowdy link. It was recorded and can be experienced here.



Wish to learn more about Juneteenth? 

Check out this list of materials from UTSA Libraries:

Online Access:

Juneteenth Texas : essays in African-American folklore by Abernethy, Francis Edward

Available through UTSA libraries:

Juneteenth : a celebration of freedom by Taylor, Charles A

Juneteenth, unique heritage : an historical analysis of the origin and evolution of the 19th of June celebration in Texas by Williams, David A

Juneteenth : a novel by Ellison, Ralph

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