Juneteenth Vs. Society (Then)

Part 2 of the “A Time to Celebrate and Educate” Series 

During the early years, when Juneteenth was still being established as a day of festivities, there was little interest expressed in the holiday outside of the African American community. It had even gotten to the point that white spaces outwardly expressed their resistance to the day by banning the use of public property for festivities. Instead, many times the festivities took place in rural areas near bodies of water, which allowed for activities such as fishing, horseback riding and barbecues to take place. 

As African Americans started to become landowners, land was purchased and donated for Juneteenth activities. One of the first registered land purchases for Juneteenth was organized by Rev. Jack Yates. Through his fund-raising effort, he was able to raise $1000 and with it, was able to purchase Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas. Over in Mexia, Booker T. Washington Park was purchased by the local Juneteenth organization and used as the Juneteenth celebration site in 1898. 

Juneteenth committee members down in Texas had to go against those faithful to the Jim Crow laws that were in place. For those who don’t know, the Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. They were put in place during the late 19th and early 20th centuries by white Democratic state legislatures to disenfranchise and remove political and economic gains made by the blacks during the Reconstruction period. Following the Reconstruction era, those who agreed with these laws organized to try and whitewash history by glorifying their past cruelties and defeats. There are even accounts of some white landowners interrupting and stopping Juneteenth festivities, demanding that they return to work. Luckily, most allowed their workers the day off and some even made donations, which included food and money.

Some information for this article was gathered from https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/ & https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm

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