AUSTIN, Texas - Juneteenth is a holiday rooted in the Lone Star State that commemorates the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, people in Texas were still enslaved for two more years.
“General Granger shows up June 19, 1865 along with 2,000 federal troops and formally announces the end of the war on Texas soil. Among the things he reads is the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Dr. Fred McGhee.
McGhee has studied Texas history and the facts behind Juneteenth. He says slave owners knew of the Emancipation but refused to abide by it. “Just because you pass a law, you still have to enforce it. So a lot of Southern slaveholders in places like Texas were like ‘Well I still have a crop to get out of the ground,’” he said.
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The message of freedom resonated on that warm June day, however in 2020, many in the Black community still feel Black people are not free yet. For traditional purposes, many gathered at the historic Rosewood Park celebration to talk about it.
“It hurts because I know in 2020 we are still having these issues, we're still facing these demons,” said Austin resident Ingrid Benford, who believes one of those demons is police brutality.
“It brings tears to my eyes because my husband and myself we have boys, we have men 31 and 35, and it very well could be them, it could be my husband,” she said.
“They shot my brother over nine times for no reason, all his charges were dropped, we see he was innocent, and he didn’t have a weapon on him,” resident Cluren Williams said, referring to his brother Lawrence Parrish, who filed a lawsuit against the Austin Police Department last year.
"We've been asking for a civil rights investigation,” said Williams.
It is clear this year's Juneteenth is engorged with sentiments on police brutality and the fight for human rights. “People have taken to the streets, COVID-19, economic insecurity, it’s a perfect storm,” said McGhee.
McGhee said the holiday should be more than a celebration, but also a call to action. “This was always a slumbering volcano, a racial powder keg that was always ready to burst,” he said.