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Juneteenth: An American Holiday

Professor Chuck Ambers, Museum Educational Curator at the African Museum in O...

Photo by Jade Hindmon

Above: Professor Chuck Ambers, Museum Educational Curator at the African Museum in Old Town, gives a history lesson on Juneteenth. June 19, 2018.

You can find all of Juneteenth history in San Diego’s only African World History museum, Casa Del Rey Moro which sits right on Columbia Street in Old Town.

Professor Chuck Ambers is the curator and executive director. Nestled inside the building is 6 thousand years of African World History.

In one room there's a sheet of paper among thousands of books that says, “All slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property.”

Those words from "Order Number 3" were read from a balcony in Galveston, Texas somewhere between the 13th and 19th of June 1865. That’s when Union Troops finally made it across the country to Texas and announced the total emancipation of the 250 thousand slaves being held there.

The news was met with the celebration of freedom and a soon-broken promise of 40 acres, a mule and 50 dollars.

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“The slaves, particularly in Texas, did not celebrate or know about the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863," Chuck Ambers said. "It wasn't until Juneteenth 1865 that the Union Army got to Texas and liberated the slaves.”

Professor Ambers said the traditional celebration of Juneteenth included a party with a special menu of grilled meat and vegetables, along with red velvet cake and red soda. He said the initial celebration took place in Galveston, Texas two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

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“So that’s why the Texans, the African Americans in Texas celebrate it and they wanted that to be the African American Independence Day.”

Ambers said in all of the celebrations it is important to remember the progress to be made.

"It’s the saying 'Black Lives Matter' and you have some saying all lives should matter, and they really should. But, 130 years later, we are still having a conflict. That’s the refining of the Constitution. The Constitution putting it into law but not enforcing it as well as it should."

Juneteenth is as much a celebration as it is a check of progress and a renewed commitment to keep the momentum moving forward.

Kris Arciaga ,

Juneteenth is an American Holiday, often overlooked. But what's also called African American Independence Day is as significant to our history as the Fourth Of July.

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