Local NAACP: Juneteenth should be, ‘preserved, discovered and celebrated’

Local NAACP: Juneteenth should be, ‘preserved, discovered and celebrated’

PEORIA (25News Now) – The holiday of Juneteenth showcases the independence of those who were enslaved in 1865.

Sherry Carter-Allen, Peoria’s NAACP First Vice President, says Juneteenth is not just a day to celebrate that freedom, but to honor those who have fought for the liberties of African Americans.

NAACP Peoria Branch President Marvin Hightower echoed her statement.

“We have been a depressed community, a suppressed community, and then an oppressed community,” Hightower said. “This is something positive for those individuals who were enslaved in 1865, who have been freed, and we can celebrate everything that they’ve gone through.”

One priority of the NAACP is getting younger generations to learn about the rich history surrounding the holiday and the culture. The organization’s main avenue of achieving that goal is putting on local events.

“This is something that needs to be preserved, discovered, and to continue to be talked about and celebrated. It shouldn’t be buried and dumped away because the history is important to our people,” Hightower said.

One of the latest projects the Peoria branch is working on includes policies for minority procurement. That means doing business with minority contractors, getting more minorities in the workforce, and spending more money with minority vendors.

“It doesn’t only shed a light on the national level, but on our local heroes here in Peoria, because the local heroes have done a lot,” Hightower said. “I stand on the shoulders of those who become before, so my work is based on what they began.”

Both Carter-Allen and Hightower expressed what the work means for African Americans.

“As a Black woman from the 50s, it moves my very soul to see the progression we’ve made as a people in this nation. It moves my very soul to be able to pour into the younger generation that will move forward with the battle for civil liberties,” said Carter-Allen.

“As a Black man in Peoria, I take pride in what we accomplished and where we are yet to go. It seems that we to scrap and fight for what we deserve, but that’s okay, we were built for the battle we created for the conflict,” said Hightower.

Juneteenth’s significance originated in Galveston, Texas, the Associated Press reports. Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places in the South until the Civil War ended in 1865. Even then, some white people who had profited from their unpaid labor were reluctant to share the news.

Laura Smalley, freed from a plantation near Bellville, Texas, remembered in a 1941 interview that the man she referred to as “old master” came home from fighting in the Civil War and didn’t tell the people he enslaved what had happened.

“Old master didn’t tell, you know, they was free,” Smalley said. “I think now they say they worked them, six months after that. Six months. And turn them loose on the 19th of June. That’s why, you know, we celebrate that day.”

News that the war had ended and they were free finally reached Galveston when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in the Gulf Coast city on June 19, 1865, more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia.

Granger delivered General Order No. 3, which said: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Slavery was permanently abolished six months later, when Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment. And the next year, the now-free people of Galveston started celebrating Juneteenth, an observance that has continued and spread around the world. Events include concerts, parades and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation.

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