This story originally appeared on Abilene Public Radio.
The word “Juneteenth” is a blend of “June” and “Nineteen. On June 19, 1865, two and one half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, a union general traveled to Galveston and announced the end of slavery.
Iziar Lankford, Pastor at Southwest Drive United Methodist Church, is one of nine people on the Juneteenth Celebration Committee in Abilene.
“When you think and look back that my people, slaves, were free just a 150 years ago,” Lankford said in reflection. “I am only the 4th generation from slavery.”
Today marks the 150-year anniversary of Juneteenth but despite all of the progress Americans have made toward racial equality and peace, acts of hatred still persist. Even this week, a white man in South Carolina shot nine black people to death. Lankford said education is one way for Americans to change their perspective on race.
“The one thing that has not happened that needs to become a part of American history is black history,” Lankford said.
Lankford is not alone in his belief that education is the key to changing hearts and minds. This year members of the committee will offer a history lesson during the Juneteenth celebration at the GV Daniels Recreation Center.
James Francies has devoted his life to studying American history. During the celebration he will give a lecture about Juneteenth including a timeline of slavery, stretching from the colonial America to the civil rights movement.
“When we talk about June the 19th, how far back do you want to go?” Francies asked on Wednesday at the GV Daniels Recreation Center.
Francies launched into an in-depth lesson on the Civil War and the events that lead up to Juneteenth. He recalled celebrating the holiday as a boy, cooking with his family and having a party. But Francies said he wants the focus to shift from just a good time to more of an opportunity for learning.
“This year is 150 years of 19th of June celebrations,” Francies said. “Of that 150 years I am 85 years old and I have knowledge of visiting 19th of June celebrations and I can’t record not one where someone would stand and express the importance of 19th of June or to take and give credit to that particular day to be set aside to take and signify and tell people how important it should be for them to continue to cherish the 19th of June.”