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Photo: Institute of Jazz Studies
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A Brief History Of Juneteenth
Juneteenth is one of America’s oldest African-American holidays. On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with his troops and declared that slavery in the state was now ended. Texas was the last state to receive this news, and for many years Juneteenth was primarily a regional holiday.
Gradually, Juneteenth spread to other parts of the country. In recent times the day has gained momentum as a broad celebration of African-American culture and freedom, continuing to invoke the long tradition of food, games, and remembrance of ancestors. Barbecue, baseball, music and prayer are often important elements of the holiday, not to mention red soda water.
The Juneteenth Jazz Jamboree features music that celebrates emancipation and African-American heroes, including musicians such as
- Duke Ellington
- Max Roach
- Carmen McRae
- James Newton
- and Charles Lloyd (performing the so-called ‘Negro national anthem,’ “Lift Every Voice and Sing”).
We’ll also hear an ode to boxing icon Joe Louis that brought together three major African-American artists of the 20th century: novelist Richard Wright, singer/actor Paul Robeson, and bandleader Count Basie.
Emancipation-celebration expert William Wiggins provides commentary and background on the holiday as well.
- The Juneteenth website
- A history of Juneteenth
- 2009 Juneteenth Jazz celebration
- An article about Juneteenth by Night Lights guest William Wiggins
- Texas state’s Juneteenth page
- Time Magazine‘s brief rundown on Juneteenth
- Information about Juneteenth on Electronic Village
Night Lights program outtake
During slavery, there were laws in many areas that prohibited or limited the dressing of the enslaved, and during the initial days of the emancipation celebrations there are accounts of former slaves tossing their ragged garments into the creeks and rivers and putting on clothes taken from their ex-masters’ plantations.