A year ago today, Juneteenth (a contraction of “June 19th”) became a federal holiday.
The holiday marks the date (in 1865) that U.S. Army officer Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, Texas. The order reinforced the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two and a half years earlier, by asserting that “all slaves are free.”
This mattered because Texas still had about 250,000 slaves. Why? Because “the state never had the large Union army presence necessary to enforce the proclamation.”
Intriguingly, a baby born in nearby Harris County, Texas, in 1930 — long after the Civil War was over — may have been named “Juneteenth.”
I first discovered her a few years ago, while doing research for a post about unusual names in Harris County. She was born into an African-American family on June 26th — a week after Juneteenth — but “June tenth” is the name that appears to be written on her birth certificate (above).
In later records, on the other hand, she’s consistently listed as “Juneteena” or “June Teena.” I even found her mentioned in a 1980s cookbook:
This is one of my personal favorites, the peach pie-cobbler from June Teena Anderson, one of the Panhandle’s finest cooks.
She died in 1999, and on her gravestone her name is written “June T. Anderson.”
It’s impossible to know the original intentions of her parents (who were named Allen and Margie Anderson, btw). But it does seem plausible — given their cultural heritage, their location, and the baby’s birth date — that they had wanted to name her Juneteenth.
What are your thoughts on this?
- Hurd, Michael. “How Juneteenth Brought Emancipation to Enslaved People in Texas.” Texas Highways June 2020.
- Juneteenth: What It Is and how It Is Observed – NPR
- June Tenth Anderson, Texas Birth Certificates, FamilySearch
- Smith, Joanne. Texas Highways Cookbook. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986.