HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, more than 250,000 thousand slaves finally received their freedom in Texas on June 19, 1865.
Rev. Ray A. Smith, chairman of the Ray-E Foundation and coordinator of the Hattiesburg Juneteenth Festival, explains the history behind Juneteenth.
“Juneteenth started in Galveston, Texas in 1865,” Smith said. “The Emancipation Proclamation was issued and the slaves knew that the war was over, but they did not know that the Emancipation Proclamation had freed them. And when Gen. Gordon Granger landed there at Galveston, he read that order to the slaves, and when they heard freedom, there was jubilation and praise and worship and thanksgiving and fun and fellowship and the following year they established June 19th as Juneteenth.”
“Our ancestors died and shed their blood and worked their fingers to the bone to help establish this great country,” Smith said. “It was established on the backs of African Americans and all of those who paid the sacrifice so that we could have this day. It’s very important that we celebrate Juneteenth.”
The Ray-E Foundation of Hattiesburg continues the celebration of Juneteenth each year to bring the community together to remember the day of freedom.
The Ray-E Foundation usually celebrates on Juneteenth, but canceled this year’s gathering due to COVID-19.