Oregon Celebrates Juneteenth 2023

June 19, 1865, marked the end of slavery in Texas.

June 19, 2023 marks the 158th Anniversary of the first Juneteenth Celebration in Galveston, Texas. Juneteenth is an important time of reflection as well as education. It is an opportune time to look at African-American history through the lens of the Juneteenth celebration.

Juneteenth gets its name by combining the date on which it is held: June 19th.

June 19, 1865 was the day Union General Gordon Granger informed the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas that they were officially free. Issued two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Granger read the words of General Order Number 3 as follows:

“The people of Texas are informed with a Proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are freeThis involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.”

Juneteenth 2023 Oregon

Over the many years of celebrating Juneteenth, widely known as “Freedom Day,” I have often said that my mind can scarcely imagine the depths of the emotions and the fear of the unknown for the newly freed Black men, women and children of Texas. Today, as Oregon prepares to celebrate Juneteenth 2023, my mind is filled with amazement about June 17, 2021, the day President Joe Biden signed a bill into law establishing June 19th as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

I wonder what the freed Black people of Texas would think of the President’s words at this moment in history.

“I’ve only been president for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as president.

I regret that my grandchildren aren’t here, because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history.

By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history — and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we’ve come and the distance we have to travel.”

The decision by the U.S. Senate and House to recognize Juneteenth on a national level happened just over a year after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked national protests against police brutality and systemic racism. This reckoning, along with Covid-19’s disproportionate toll on Black Americans, has led to increased interest in the celebration of Juneteenth. 

Against this societal backdrop, Juneteenth has had a rebirth in terms of Americans, particularly young people, wanting to know what it is. At the same time, others want to better understand how Juneteenth relates to the “arc of the moral universe bending toward justice,” or the possibility that it won’t without action. Indeed, as we celebrate Juneteenth in Oregon, our thoughts turn to the true meaning of freedom.

One of the key sponsors of the 2021 Juneteenth bill was Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA). Senator Markey pointed out that Juneteenth’s designation as a federal holiday comes at a time of debate over how schools teach students about racism. The Senator is also widely quoted as saying that recognizing Juneteenth on a federal level “acknowledges slavery as the original sin built into the United States Constitution. We celebrate its eradication, but we can’t celebrate how deeply racism resulted in America’s policies and is still built into education, health, housing and every other policy.”

Without a doubt, the question of  freedom lingers as we gather to remember and to celebrate the historic moment when General Granger read the words, “All slaves are free.”

The Democratic Party of Oregon and the DPO Black Caucus invite you to join us in celebration of Juneteenth 2023! With great joy and excitement, we announce a wide range of spectacular Juneteenth opportunities across Oregon by an energized DPO and county and caucus leadership. 

See a statewide listing of Juneteenth events by clicking this link.

Rosa Colquitt, PhD, is the State Party Chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon