SAN ANGELO, Texas — After years of back and forth in the Senate, a unanimous vote passed a resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday in 1980. With Juneteenth now being declared a federal holiday, African American Texans feel like things are progressing for Americans to learn more about Black history.
Blackshear Heights Assistant Director Chermette Cook is helping organize the annual Juneteenth parade in San Angelo. Although the population of Black people in San Angelo is about 4.9% (according to the U.S Census), she believes that no matter how many Black people are present, it’s important to always be felt and be heard.
“Just because we’re low in numbers doesn’t mean we’re not here. We can be in a town where the ratio is 2 to 2,000 but we should still show up and show out. That’s what our Juneteenth holiday is all about. Being comfortable and confident in our brown skin no matter what shade and remembering the past but focusing on the future,” Cook said.
On June 19,1865, in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas. Fort Concho Museum Site Manager Robert Bluthardt gave information about the history of slavery in the Concho Valley.
“Given that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 and news of it came to Texas (thus Juneteenth) in June of 1865, Fort Concho and San Angelo came after the time slavery was legal and practiced. San Angelo was created in the very late 1860s/early 1870s as an outgrowth of Fort Concho. Most of the West Texas/Panhandle area except for the El Paso area date their settled origins to the post-Civil War era and thus would not have had slavery,” Bluthardt said.
Cook wants people to attend the Juneteenth parade to understand how far Black people have come and want residents to know they will have a good time celebrating this newly proclaimed federal holiday.
“While COVID is still here and still a big issue, we can still come out and be together to celebrate Juneteenth. I want my community to know and for us to show other people that when black people come together there's not always problems and when you come to this side of town there's not always problems. So that's why it's important for me to go ahead and push through with this celebration,” Cook said.
The Juneteenth parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 19, at the Carver Learning Center, 301 W. 9th St. After the parade, there will be food and clothing vendors as well as music for families and the community to enjoy.