Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom and Resilience

In the early to mid-1860s, the Snoqualmie Valley was predominantly inhabited by the Snoqualmie Tribe and a few white settlers. During this period, the most populous town in Washington Territory was Walla Walla, home to 722 people, including 17 Native Americans and one African American. The 1860 federal census recorded only 30 African Americans living in the entire territory, comprising 26 men and just four women.

Washington was far removed from the Civil War battlefields, but today, we commemorate Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, as a recognition of history and a celebration of African American culture. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring all enslaved people in Confederate states free. However, the proclamation’s enforcement depended on the advance of Union troops.

Being geographically isolated and with a low presence of Union soldiers, Texas remained largely unaffected by the Emancipation Proclamation. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with federal troops and announced General Order No. 3, declaring that all enslaved people were free. This day became known as Juneteenth, blending the words “June” and “nineteenth.”

The end of the Civil War in April 1865 marked the beginning of the Reconstruction Era in the United States, a time of significant social and political transformation aimed at integrating formerly enslaved people into American society. The same year, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery throughout the country.

In 1866, freed people in Texas organized the first ‘Jubilee Day’ on June 19. These celebrations included music, barbecues, prayer services, and other activities commemorating freedom and community. As African Americans migrated from Texas to other parts of the country, they carried the Juneteenth tradition with them, spreading its observance nationwide.

Despite its significance, Juneteenth was not widely recognized as an official holiday for many years. Texas was the first state to make June 19 an official holiday in 1979. It wasn’t until 2021 that Juneteenth gained national recognition when Congress passed a resolution establishing it as a national holiday. President Biden signed the resolution into law on June 17, 2021.

This year, in observance of Juneteenth, Snoqualmie and North Bend city offices will be closed on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865, symbolizing freedom and resilience in African American history. The closure of city offices is a testament to Juneteenth’s growing recognition and importance as a day of reflecting and celebrating African American culture and history.

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  • On this very important date, Juneteenth, why do we continue to honor the racist Man named E J Roberts with his name for the park on 6th and Thrasher, North Bend?
    From Living Snoqualmie.

    “No person of other than the Caucasian race shall use or occupy any building or lot except as servants domesticated with any owner or tenant”
    The developer of the Silver Creek Tracts in North Bend was Earle J. Roberts. He was born January 14, 1891 in Joplin, Missouri; married in 1911 to first wife Anna; moved to Washington state; and in 1914 had his first child in Seattle.
    In 1915 his second child was born in Snoqualmie and a third son was locally born at some point. According to ancestry.com, he was drafted into both WWI and WWII; at some point divorced his first wife; then remarried Sylvia McConkey in 1937. He worked at Puget Sound Power and Light before starting a real estate/insurance business in 1918.
    Roberts died on March 3, 1972 and is buried at the Mount Si Memorial Cemetery. His obituary states that at retirement, he donated five acres of land that became a North Bend park that now bears his name.
    As of publishing, these are the few personal facts uncovered about EJ Roberts. We also know he was the developer of North Bend’s Silver Creek Tracts in the late 40’s – and as the developer, wrote the restrictive covenant that disallowed property ownership by people of color.”

    My niece and nephew are of color. According to this they are not allowed to play in E J ROBERTS PARK. It is well past time for a change.

  • Living Snoqualmie