The importance and origin of Juneteenth

(Nati Harnik | AP)
Published: Jun. 19, 2022 at 12:25 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Back in the 1800s, June 19 was not always celebrated as festivals like the ones today.

Juneteenth is a day for African Americans to honor their enslaved ancestors and relatives, who finally got the message that they were free.

“So, I think first you have to start from its inception, of how this thing first came about,” said Eugene Collins, president of the Baton Rouge NAACP. “We know that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1862. It was brought into law in 1863 but it took two and a half years for word to reach Texas. A union general actually took the word to Texas, and let those saves know that they’re free, for some two and a half years at that point on June 19th, 1865.”

Collins explained that for many years, Juneteenth was not widely known to the public.

In fact, many of their ancestors had to celebrate it in secrecy.

“They would celebrate Juneteenth around rivers and lakes. They would eat red things like strawberries, they would drink a choice of strawberry soda, they would eat red velvet cake to pay homage to the blood spilled during slavery,” added Collins.

Collins said it is important to pass the story down to their families and keep the tradition alive, but to also remember the lives lost due to slavery.

“Juneteenth, I love the celebration of it, but let’s never forget those who paid such a harsh price, so I could sit here and say these things.”

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