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Column #105

A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt

Juneteenth Parade
Juneteenth Parade, Houston, Texas, ca. 1914, by F.J. Schleuter





In this era of virtually instantaneous communications, when there are approximately 7 billion people on the planet and 5.1 billion of them own cell phones, it seems incredible that it took two-and-a-half years for news of the end of slavery to reach Texas, and yet that is what happened. Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but slaves in Texas did not learn of it until June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers sailed into Galveston Bay and Major General Gordon Granger read a special order from President Lincoln:

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 rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.  The freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages.  They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and they will not be supported in idleness, either there or elsewhere.

The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture lists several African American folktales that explain the delay, including that President Lincoln sent the news from Washington by a Union soldier who rode all the way on a slow-moving mule. Another version held that many slave owners in Texas were aware of the Emancipation Proclamation but refused to tell their slaves about it until the 1865 crops had been harvested.

Since 1865, June 19th—or Juneteenth, as it is commonly called—has been a day of celebration for many African Americans in Texas. The celebrations usually include speeches, parades, food, drink, music, all sorts of recreational activities, and often, a display of quilts. The tradition has spread and today Juneteenth is celebrated in other states and even some other countries. It is an official state holiday in many states and there is an organization dedicated to lobbying for declaring Juneteenth a national holiday. Reverend Ronald V. Myers Sr., M.D., of Belzoni, Mississippi, is chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. The group’s mission is “To bring all Americans together to celebrate our common bond of freedom through the recognition, observance, education and historic preservation of Juneteenth in America”.

2015 will mark the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, and Reverend Myers would like to see the creation of an official Juneteenth commemorative quilt. He would also like to encourage groups and individuals to make Juneteenth commemorative quilts of their own. “Quilts are an important part of African American history,” said Rev. Myers. “It would be a great idea to have a National Juneteenth Quilt! I would like to see it travel around to different parts of the country and eventually be displayed in Washington, D.C.” You can contact Rev. Myers at juneteenthdoc@yahoo.com.


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Archived blogs:

Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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