Chris Brent, president of the Tipton County branch of the NAACP, chops barbecue during the inaugural Juneteenth celebration Saturday, June 18, 2016.

On Saturday the county’s second-ever known celebration of Juneteenth, the day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, will be held in Covington.

Though it is a big event in many Texas towns, Juneteenth isn’t as widely celebrated in other areas of the United States.

“The purpose is to understand the history of Juneteenth and how the people in Galveston were the last to find out they were free,” said Tipton County NAACP President Chris Brent.


The celebration commemorates the abolition of slavery and falls on the anniversary of its announcement in Texas on June 19, 1865, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Because Texas was not a battleground state, its slaves were not affected by the emancipation order unless they escaped.

During the Civil War, planters and other shareholders moved to Texas to avoid Union reach. This increased the number of enslaved people in the Galveston and Houston areas from 1,000 in 1860 to 250,000 by the end of the war in 1865.

Symbolism & Juneteenth
As with many holidays, there are several symbols associated with Juneteenth. The color red, for instance, makes an appearance in clothing and food and beverages (such as red velvet cake and red drinks) to symbolize the blood shed by enslaved people as well and is even believed to be a nod to the West African symbols of sacrifice, strength, spirituality, life and death.
There’s even a Juneteenth flag. Pictured above, the flag is full of symbols representing the emancipation in 1865. Created in 1997 by activist Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, the flag’s star represents both the Lone Star State and the freedom of all Americans. The burst surrounding it is a nova, which is a new star, and symbolizes a new beginning for enslaved people. The arc, where the field of blue meets the red, is the horizon and signifies the hope and opportunities which lay ahead for Black Americans. The overall color scheme – red, white and blue – represent the American flag and serve as a reminder that enslaved people and their descendants were and are Americans. Some flags also bear the date “June 19, 1865,” the day in which all Americas were free.

News of the war’s end, and the legal end of slavery, spread slowly to these areas because of Texas’s isolating geography. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger read from the Ashton Villa General Order No. 3, delivering news of the emancipation.

It’s common to learn about the Emancipation Proclamation as a child or young adult, but knowing it took more than two years for every enslaved person to be freed isn’t as commonly known.

“The reason that this event is important because it helps to tell the true story of our history,” said Covington alderman John Edwards. “There were two independence days in America. While both were significant, July 4, 1776 did not guarantee independence and freedom for everyone. While it may be uncomfortable for some to discuss, Juneteenth brought freedom for the slaves and it also shows how the control of information was used to assist in the oppression of others. Although the slaves were legally free two years earlier, the suppression of this fact helped the slaveowners to steal two years of freedom from the slaves illegally.”

Brent said it’s important to learn the history of this country, even if it’s uncomfortable.

“If we’re going to embrace history we’ve gotta teach all of the history of this country,” he said. “We’re only as good as the sources of people who’ve been deprived of knowing. And the way to heal is to address the issue and grow and learn from each other.”

Brent wants to be clear that the event is open to everyone, not just the Black community.

“This is for the community, all people, because we must remember there were white slaves just as well as there were Black slaves. It’s our history as a country. Everyone is included because we all have to do this together. We need people to come out and understand the history to bridge the gap to better things. When we sit and have conversations we find out we have more in common than we realized.”

Edwards said Saturday’s event will help with educating people about the struggle for emancipation.

“Although this history hurts, it helps to explain mindsets and actions to this day. This event helps to ensure that all facets of American history are are known and can be analyzed. Juneteenth and Independence day are both American history and should be recognized every year.”

Juneteenth, which comes from “June nineteenth,” has been celebrated as Freedom Day since 1866.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill designating it a federal holiday. It’s waiting for President Joe Biden’s signature.

In 2016, the Tipton County NAACP hosted the first-known  Juneteenth celebration in Covington’s Cobb-Parr Park. There was a town hall meeting for politicians to talk to the public, barbecue, and Edwards played DJ as dozens of people gathered to celebrate.

This year’s event will take place at Frazier Park from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and will have food, music and fun, organizers said. Children & Family Services will be hosting an open house in conjunction will the event in the park and will have free hot dogs, hot wings, chips, beverages and more. There will also be activities and giveaways.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.