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Juneteenth

Updated: Jan 20

What is Juneteenth?


Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, is an annual holiday that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the southern states of the US. It is described as a second independence day and has been celebrated within the African-American community for over a century.


History


A photograph of the Emancipation Proclamation (Image Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)
A photograph of the Emancipation Proclamation (Image Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)

Once the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, slaves in Confederate states were declared legally free. However, everyone in these states was not immediately free, as the Proclamation couldn’t be properly implemented in places that remained under Confederate control. On June 19th, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed enslaved African-Americans of the end of the Civil War and their freedom. This is what put the Emancipation Proclamation into effect on a larger scale. Juneteenth was named as such by the newly freed people in Texas on that day in 1865.


Celebrations


Over time, Juneteenth has been celebrated by African-Americans in many different ways, including prayers and celebrations among families.

Some who were enslaved, or had descendants who were, would make an annual pilgrimage to Galveston. Now that more people outside of the African-American community are aware of this holiday, big celebrations are becoming more common and large-scale events like music festivals are being organized in major cities.


A Juneteenth celebration parade in Philadelphia in 2019(Image Source: Tippman98x on Shutterstock.com)
A Juneteenth celebration parade in Philadelphia in 2019(Image Source: Tippman98x on Shutterstock.com)


Recognition


The House held a ceremony to celebrate the passing of legislation making Juneteenth an official federal holiday (Image Source: Stefani Reynolds from the New York Times))
The House held a ceremony to celebrate the passing of legislation making Juneteenth an official federal holiday (Image Source: Stefani Reynolds from the New York Times))

Juneteenth only started being recognized officially in 1980, when Texas first made it a state holiday. The most recent states to make it an official holiday were Hawaii and North Dakota in April 2021. Finally, after the Senate and House of Representatives almost unanimously voted in favor of it, President Joe Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday on June 17th, 2021.







Importance


Juneteenth is important to commemorate because it allows us to reflect on the steps that were made toward freedom and the ways in which African-Americans are still undermined in our society. As this holiday approaches, we must realize the importance of uplifting and supporting Black voices in the fight for equality and justice, both on Juneteenth and throughout the entire year.


 

References


HAVE A PROUD AND HAPPY JUNETEENTH! Juneteenth World Wide Celebration. (n.d.). https://juneteenth.com/.

LeBlanc, P., & Stracqualursi, V. (2021, June 18). New national holiday sets off scramble to shut down governments nationwide Friday. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/17/politics/juneteenth-federal-holiday-government-shut-down/index.html.


NBCUniversal News Group. (2021, April 27). Hawaii close to honoring Juneteenth, leaving 1 state holdout. NBCNews.com. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/hawaii-close-honoring-juneteenth-leaving-1-state-holdout-n1265564.


Robbins, L. (2020, June 18). These states now recognize Juneteenth, but what are their other holidays? wusa9.com. https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/nation-world/juneteenth-us-states-official-holidays/507-aa8e98a6-8e01-4f39-b3b5-632d3bf8c83b.


Smith, K. (2020, June 18). Reflecting on Juneteenth. Facing Today - A Facing History Blog. https://facingtoday.facinghistory.org/reflecting-on-juneteenth.


Smithsonian . (n.d.). The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth. National Museum of African American History and Culture. https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/historical-legacy-juneteenth.


Taylor, D. B. (2020, June 17). So You Want to Learn About Juneteenth? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/article/juneteenth-day-celebration.html.



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