You’ve passed it on your calendar, and its all over your newsfeed… but what is Juneteenth exactly?
Juneteenth, also known as America’s Second Independence Day, Jubilee Day and Freedom Day, is the day of celebration of the emancipation of the last remaining slaves. On June 19th, 1865, the Union soldiers, led by General Granger, arrived at Galveston, Texas declaring that the war had ended and the enslaved were free. This happened two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emacipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863, but due to a lack of Union troops in Texas enforcing the executive order, there was little impact on Texans until June 19th, 1865.
The celebration of Juneteenth started in Texas in 1866 and started to spread throughout the southern states. By 2000, Juneteenth was celebrated in most major cities across America. We are fighting to have Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday. Juneteenth is a state holiday/special day of observance in 46 of the 50 states, waiting on Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Hawaii.
After chatting with many others about Juneteenth, I realized how many of us have been completely unaware of its existence. This holiday represents the freedom that America claims to offer. It’s the day we made the “land of the free” a true statement, but America’s unjust ways didn’t end there. 155 years later and we still do not treat black people with equality. We rob them of opportunity, pay them less and police them more. Most of us can never understand what living in bondage feels like, but we don’t have to know to still educate ourselves and others, and stand together to fight for equality. Start by doing some research, then share that knowledge using any platform you have to educate your friends and family on black history and black culture; Maybe a blog post, an instagram post, or just a conversation. Start supporting our black brothers and sisters! Join a protest, support local black-owned businesses, hire and promote black people. Together we can overcome the injustice we face in this country, but it all starts with you.
“What Juneteenth means to me…”
“Juneteenth is freedom day and that was something slaves in the south had not thought was possible. We were not given reparations or a platform to make something after freedom was granted, the slaves just knew they could leave the plantations and were freed from the whips that left souvenirs on many. Juneteenth is the day slaves felt free, even though we as black people are born free. Juneteenth symbolizes growth in the black community, symbolizes the ability to be more in a world that has oppressed us just to oppress us. Juneteenth is our day, something that belongs to us and it’s something the oppressors cannot take from us. They cannot take this from us, even though they have taken everything else. We are anointed by God and we now have the crown that we were born with. It’s a national holiday because it’s the day the nation had to acknowledge the freeing of slaves.”
“[Juneteenth] symbolizes the freedom so many had thought they would never live to see. I think it’s the day that marks America truly becoming America… An entire race had essentially been “freed” within the country. It symbolizes the life and hard work my great grandmother and my grandpa were able to accomplish, the lives and freedoms my uncle, aunt, and mother would also taste… It was the spark of what would be (and still is) a long, tiring, much needed revolution to break away the systematic chains that still bruise the flesh of black Americans today. To celebrate, I’ll be watching black film and will be learning more about the culture and community. I think celebrations for the holiday will be like never before with the amount of awareness and confidence communities have been gaining from these protests.”