A crowd listens to the annual reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by local officials at a ceremony for Juneteenth, a Texas holiday that commemorates the day in 1865 when slaves were told by a Union General in occupied Galveston that the Emancipation Proclamation, written two years earlier by Abraham Lincoln, had set them free.
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the war time Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the eleven southern states of the Confederacy. Because the nation was still at war, however, this remained just a piece of paper in the large sections of territory not under the federal government’s control. The slaves of Texas were not freed until two and half years later, on June 19th, 1865, when a Union general landed in Galveston and read the Emancipation Proclamation from the balcony of a local home. This event is still celebrated in Texas as the Juneteenth, or June 19th, holiday.
I like this photograph for two reasons. First, in an age of reality television and video games and celebrity worship, I was impressed to find a place where people come out to listen to a 19th century document being read out loud. The second reason is more personal. In searching the crowd for whom I should photograph, I saw the couple in this picture. I hope that someday we will reach a place where race has little meaning, but until that day, every time I see an interracial couple, it is a watermark for me, for what is freedom if not the ability to love who you want?