The Fourth of July is nationally recognized and celebrated as the nation’s Independence Day, but were you also aware of the importance of June 19th, commonly referred to as Juneteenth? The overall culture in America is one that has mastered the art of offering a watered-down, whitewashed, and totally inaccurate account of historical facts throughout time. If you do not read, research and question what you think you know, you will find yourself in the dark about topics that should be considered common knowledge.
Most people associate the complete abolition of slavery with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 however, this is not entirely accurate. The federal declaration wasn’t adhered to in Texas and it was not until June 19th, 1865 that Union troops led by, General Granger went to Galveston, Texas to enforce the proclamation and declare the slaves free.
While the announcement of freedom reached Texas nearly two and a half years later, the reaction to the news was mixed. Upon notification, many former slaves had nowhere to go, but felt leaving the plantations immediately was their best recourse. Many left for the north which was deemed an ideal destination for freedom and others settled in nearby states, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Early Juneteenth celebrations were met with opposition as the festivities weren’t allowed in public spaces. Instead, they were held in rural areas, church grounds and near rivers to allow for a variety of activities. Common celebrations included fishing, barbecues, rodeos, prayer sessions, education and a sharing of wisdom passed down by the elders.
This year, we the people are going extra hard this year because just this week, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris signed into law a bill establishing Juneteenth National Independence Day, as an official federal holiday.
“By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we have to travel to,” Biden said during remarks Thursday in the East Room of the White House.
Juneteenth was prevalent during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and thanks to the efforts of a Black state legislator, Al Edwards, Juneteenth was declared a state holiday in Texas, and now it’s an official holiday across the U.S. and the first federal holiday established since Former President Ronald Reagan established Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
The law takes effect immediately and will be celebrated on Friday, June 18, as it is the closest weekday.
How are you celebrating this year?