A group of black leaders in front of a Santa Barbara home in 1926 (Photo: Santa Barbara Public Library / UCSB Department of Special Collections)
By edhat staff
Today, Santa Barbara honors our local Black community and Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the liberation of those who had been held as slaves in the United States.
The organizers of Juneteenth SB moved their annual event to an online format bringing community members together to celebrate the freedom of enslaved African Americans.
The "Digital Diaspora: A Santa Barbara Celebration of Black Histories and Futures" features a series of online videos that showcase black joy and culture while honoring local black artists, performers, and organizations.
Dr. David Moore, pastor at New Covenant Worship Center in Santa Barbara, shared his thoughts on this powerful time in history.
"For me Black joy is after all of this weariness and fatigue, seeing people rise up with a thirst for reality which means a thirst for justice," said Dr. Moore.
Leticia Forney shared about her direct ancestor Jerry Forney, who was the first documented Black resident of Sana Barbara in 1881 and decided to bring 500 other slaves to start a community.
"Joining Juneteenth is an opportunity for me to grow, to learn, and to celebrate what is our history and what is our present," said Leticia.
Santa Barbara's former Poet Laureate, Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, wrote a poem titled "Free At Last: A Juneteenth Poem" that was read over a montage of historical video footage.
History of Juneteenth
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, but it was formally issued on January 1, 1863, declaring that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were freed.
During the war, slaveholders had migrated into Texas to escape fighting, bringing thousands of enslaved people with them. More than 1,000 resided in both Galveston and Houston by 1860, although most lived in more rural areas. By 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.
On June 18, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops. The next day he read aloud the contents of "General Order No. 3", announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Formerly enslaved people in Galveston celebrated and the following year they organized the first of what became the annual celebration of "Jubilee Day" on June 19.
In most cities, black people were unable to use public parks due to segregation. Throughout Texas, freed people raised money to purchase land where they could hold celebrations. Black leaders in Texas raised $1,000 for the purchase of 10 acres of land to celebrate Juneteenth. Today that park is known as Houston's Emancipation Park.
Throughout the years the celebrations grew; in 1898 an estimated 30,000 black people celebrated at Booker T. Washington Park in Limestone County, Texas. By the 1890s Jubilee Day had become known as Juneteenth.
In 1980, Texas was the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. Today, activists are currently pushing Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday. Just this month, state governors of Virginia and New York signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a paid day of leave for state employees.
For local history, the Santa Barbara Public Library has a collection of historical photos showings the African American community on the Central Coast. The photos can be viewed here.
[Historical Source: Wikipedia]