explainer / culture

Juneteenth and Barbecue

The menu of Emancipation Day
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Just like for the Fourth of July, food and drink have long been central to Juneteenth celebrations, barbecue being a common cuisine served at picnics and parades. Barbecue historian Robert Moss noted the connection in his book Barbecue: The History of an American Institution. “One constant was the barbecue pit, which always took the central place at the festivities.” An account published in 1871 in The Reformer, an Austin newspaper, announced a celebration “to take place at the barbecue grounds.” In Hempstead in 1886 “a big barbecue dinner was spread for the multitude,” and three years later in Cleburne there was a parade, where patrons “met at the grove to enjoy a basket dinner and barbecue.” Preparations for the 1892 celebration in Austin included barbecue according to the Daily Statesman, an occasion where “the preparation and sharing of food was the main attraction. In keeping with convention men barbecued the meat, and women prepared the remainder of the food.” In Brenham, just after the turn of the century, it was reported that “a large crowd of negroes met at Oak Grove Thursday and celebrated the Juneteenth. A big barbecue was prepared and some two hundred joined in the slaughter of meat.”
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