LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Lexington-Fayette National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) encourages all Fayette County residents to recognize Juneteenth. Celebrated on June 19, the holiday marks the day in 1865 that Union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War was over and that all enslaved persons had been declared free.
The message reverberated across the nation.
And Lexington has a unique tie to the day and the history behind it.
The freeing of persons who were enslaved has a complicated history in the United States. On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln changed the legal status of 3.5 million persons who were enslaved in the Confederate States with the Emancipation Proclamation.
During the Civil War, Kentucky remained with the Union, in part to protect the rights of slave owners. Thus, slavery was not ended in the commonwealth until passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in January 1865.
“The holiday is not just important for African-Americans to celebrate, but it is important for all of us to recognize this historic event in American history,” said Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto, chair of the Legal Redress/Criminal Justice Committee of the local chapter. “In order for us to move forward, we have to understand the root causes of some of the issues that we are still facing today. Recognizing the importance of Juneteenth is a solid step in that direction.”
The significance of June 19 started in Texas, but has become widely adopted by the Black community to celebrate the continued fight for Civil Rights in America and to connect the community around a shared history.
Ironically, Gordon Granger, the career U.S. Army officer and a Union general who read the General Order in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, is buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
“Juneteenth celebrates the effective end of slavery in the United States, but it is important to remember that it was not until the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment that the law comported across the nation with the victory of a hard fought battle,” DiLoreto added.
“It is important for us to raise up this day and month to celebrate the invaluable contributions of Black Americans to the creation and growth of this United States and the NAACP honors those who suffered the horrors and indignities of slavery. We ask the community to celebrate with us. One action we can take is to urge our Kentucky Legislature to make this day a state holiday,” she stated.
There are a number of activities planned across the state to celebrate Juneteenth. For more information, visit lexnaacp.net/blog.