Arkansans have been joining together all across the state to ring in Juneteenth celebrations.
Arkansas Democrats from Drew County to Jefferson County to Sebastian County were out at local festivals and parades celebrating the occasion, registering voters, and enjoying the blessings of life.
Juneteenth marks the end of slavery after the Civil War, a day where America’s fundamental promises of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” come closer to being fully realized by all. When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, he took a huge step toward erasing that stain. But the full force of his proclamation would not be realized until June 19, 1865—Juneteenth, as it was called by slaves in Texas freed that day.
The westernmost of the Confederate states, Texas did not get news of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomatox that April until two months after the fact. But they heard once Union Gen. Gordon Granger, a New Yorker and West Point graduate with a distinguished wartime service record, arrived in Galveston Bay with more than 2,000 Union troops. It was on June 19 that he publicly read General Order No. 3, which began: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Juneteeth symbolizes a truer Independence Day for many, and Arkansas has had a proud history of African-American leadership and organizing ever since.
Our state has seen great people like Scipio Jones emerge from the depths of a slave society. He was born the son of a slave and defended black sharecroppers after the Elaine Massacre of 1919, the deadliest lynching in U.S. history. Arkansas at it’s best is still defined by great African-American leaders like the Honorable Lottie Shackelford, State Senator Joyce Elliott, and a whole chorus of stars.