Today we celebrate Juneteenth. Juneteenth is the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery. Juneteenth gets its name from combining June and Nineteenth, or June 19. It was June 19, 1865, when slavery ended in Galveston Texas. It was General Order Number 3 from General Gordon Granger that said, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
The Juneteenth celebration holiday holds just as much importance in American history as that of Fourth of July, President’s Day, and Memorial Day. Unlike those holidays it is not a federal holiday where people are off work, but in many cities across the country, the day is celebrated. Because Juneteenth is not a day we get off work, there are many Americans especially African Americans who do not know the story behind Juneteenth. What makes Juneteenth so remarkable the fact that blacks in Texas had to wait to be told that slavery had ended and they were no longer enslaved. Juneteenth should also celebrate the nearly 200,000 blacks who served in the Union army during the Civil War. Not just those who fought to help end slavery, but others who risked their lives in another capacity for the cause. In many schools across the country, Juneteenth is usually not covered in the history books or even taught during Black History Month. Now over 150 years later many of the heroes of that time are forgotten. The only names celebrated during that era are Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
As we celebrate Juneteenth today allow me to highlight five other Blacks whose contribution to the end of the slavery should not be forgotten and should also be celebrated on Juneteenth:
Alexander Augusta was one of the first African-American physicians to sign up for the Union Army in 1861. At one point he was the highest ranking African-American serving when he rose to the rank of major. He was later transferred to Washington DC after two Union assistant surgeons complained about reporting to an African American. Even after the war ended, he continued to serve as a doctor and fought for the rights of blacks.
Garland White was a slave who escaped and moved to Canada. When the Civil War broke out, he moved back to the US and enlisted. While serving as a chaplain, he helped raise the enlistment of black units in many states including Indiana.
Aaron Anderson joined the Navy at age 53 in 1863. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery when his boat was attacked by 400 Confederate soldiers. After taking heavy fire, Anderson along with a few others were able to maneuver the boat to safety despite the heavy fire they took. Even with the heavy fire he took and the damage to the boat, only one person was injured during the fight.
Robert Small was a slave on the Confederate blockade runner. Small would later impersonate the ship’s captain. He then would take over the ship and would lead the rest of the slaves on the ship and their families to freedom. He later joined the Union Navy where he served as a pilot and captain.
John Lawson enlisted in the Union Navy in Dec. 1863. During the battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, his ship the USS Hartford was damaged badly. Lawson was the only one of the ammunition crew members to survive. He was injured badly during the battle, but despite his injury, he continued to supply the gunners with ammunition to fight the Confederates. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and heroism.
These are just 5 Blacks who we should celebrate. On this Juneteenth Holiday, I encourage everyone to learn more about other blacks who were heroes during the Civil War and check out a local Juneteenth event in your city.