Juneteenth conference in Yonkers aims to educate public on struggle toward equality
A small crowd gathered Monday for the second annual Juneteenth Education Conference at the Nepperhan Community Center in Yonkers – an event that aims to educate people on the history and symbolism of the national holiday.
The day, hosted by the Yonkers African American Heritage Committee, opened with a performance by an African healing circle.
Committee member Robert Winstead moderated the event. He said Juneteenth is about honoring ancestors who fought and died for African American freedom and reflecting on their struggle toward equality.
"Primarily our focus is about literacy and education. How did literacy and education play a role in our freedom?" he said.
Juneteenth celebrations began with enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places in the South until the Civil War ended in 1865. Even then, some white people who had profited from their unpaid labor were reluctant to share the news.
News that the war had ended and that enslaved people were free finally reached Galveston when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in the Gulf Coast city on June 19, 1865, more than two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia.
Granger delivered General Order No. 3, which said: “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.”
AP Wire Services contributed to this report.