, Port Arthur, Texas

June 18, 2013

Editorial: Keeping Juneteenth memory alive

The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — It’s an easy car trip down the coast and across the ferry to Galveston to visit the site where the freedom of the slaves — emancipation — was first officially announced in Texas.

On the grounds of the historic Ashton Villa, visitors find a larger-than-life bronze statue that commemorates the June 19, 1865, reading of “General Order No. 3,” what we now know as the Emancipation Proclamation. That proclamation states:

“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.”

Today we set aside June 19 to remember that it took a war and a presidential order to abolish slavery from the United States. In Port Arthur, a parade is scheduled for 5 p.m. today from Procter at Stilwell to Barbara Jacket Park. Other celebrations will be held across the state.

The recent box office hit Lincoln focused new attention on the struggle of the nation to decide the question of slavery and states rights. Events like Port Arthur’s Juneteenth celebration and works like Lincoln help keep the memory of that time alive so we as a nation can remember that at one time some of our people were bought and sold as property.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States declares that “all men are created equal.” On the day of emancipation 248 years ago that statement began to ring a little more true. But there is still work to be done and inequality to address, that’s why it’s important to keep the spirit of Juneteenth alive through celebrations like those held annually in Port Arthur.