Juneteenth: Honoring Freedom with Texas Freedom Network and Texas Rising


On June 19, communities across America will celebrate the pivotal event known as “Juneteenth” marking the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Originating in Texas, Juneteenth holds deep historical and cultural significance, emphasizing the enormous progress made in the fight for equality and the ongoing journey for true freedom and justice. 

By Gracie Israel

Juneteenth - Gracie Israel Quote
Origins of Juneteenth

Juneteenth’s origins trace back to Galveston, Texas, where on June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordan Granger delivered a proclamation declaring freedom for all enslaved people in Texas. Though President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery in Confederate states over two years prior, communication delays during the ongoing Civil War postponed its enforcement in Texas until this momentous event.

While the difficulties of wartime communications are blamed for the delayed delivery of emancipation news to Texas, realistically, resistance from slaveholders who withheld information to maintain control over enslaved populations played a significant role. This withholding of information continues today, as public schools across America have historically not taught students the history of Juneteenth — we hope when they do however, that they’re teaching the truth about how this event reflects the unwillingness of people in power to embrace progress, as well as the complexities of implementing social justice reforms during a time of war and societal conflict. 

The delay in informing enslaved people of their freedom benefited the economic interests of white slaveholders who wanted to maintain social control over African Americans, allowing continued exploitation that even endures today under the 13th Amendment, which allows enslavement as a form of punishment for crimes. Juneteenth represents a calculated attempt, in defiance of legal orders, to maintain the status quo and oppose the abolition of slavery.

Texas Freedom Network and Texas Rising: Advocating for Justice and Equality

TFN and Texas Rising’s mission resonates with the ideologies of Juneteenth through our advocacy for all policies that protect the rights and dignity of all Texans, regardless of religion, race, or sexual orientation Through legislative advocacy, community outreach, and educational initiatives, we strive to dismantle systemic barriers and foster a society where every person can thrive free from discrimination and oppression.

Juneteenth Today: Honoring Legacy, Pursuing Equality

Does slavery still affect America and our policies today? Short answer: Yes, absolutely. Although slavery officially ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment allows its legacy to persist in myriad ways across American society today, including forced and unpaid labor in prisons across the nation. The systemic inequalities rooted in centuries of racial injustice continue to manifest in disparities in wealth, education, healthcare, and criminal justice outcomes. According to the NAACP, African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of white people in America. Addressing these lingering effects requires ongoing efforts to dismantle systemic racism, enact equitable policies, and secure equal access to opportunities and rights for all, regardless of the color of their skin, the zip code they grew up in, or their family’s financial resources.

Celebrating Together

Juneteenth allows us to raise awareness about the strides African Americans have taken and the challenges that remain, even centuries after enslaved Texans learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s a chance to pay respect to African Americans’ perseverance and contributions throughout history and reaffirm our dedication to justice and equality for all Texans.

Whether you join in local Juneteenth festivities, delve into its historical significance, or support organizations like the Texas Freedom Network and Texas Rising in our advocacy, there are numerous ways to engage meaningfully in this commemorative event. Together, we can continue progressing toward a future where freedom and equality are not just aspirations, but tangible realities for everyone.

As a Black woman living in America, I acknowledge the sacrifices my ancestors made for our community. They fought not only for the voting rights of Black people but also for women’s suffrage. Today, I cast my vote as a tribute to their enduring sacrifices.