Here’s some fantastic breaking news that you can also wear on a self-care shirt!
A holiday commemorating the freedom of enslaved people in the U.S. has been designated a federal holiday. Observed on June 19 each year, it celebrates slavery ending in Texas—which happened only two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation!
Thus, this new US holiday, aptly called Juneteenth, started in African American communities in the late 1800s following the Civil War. The celebration marks slavery's end in Texas and is observed each year on June 19. Federal workers will be off on June 18 this year because it falls on a Saturday, but they will be able to celebrate Juneteenth on Sunday, June 19.
Known to some as America's second Independence Day, Juneteenth celebrates freedom for enslaved people at the end of the Civil War. The Day of Jubilee that celebrated emancipation in England inspired Juneteenth in the U.S. Stil; it didn't come about until two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War.
Fervent activists have pushed for state and federal recognition of Juneteenth in recent years, with President Obama signing a bill into law on June 9, 2015, to make it a national holiday.
Let’s dive into this amazing tale and find out why Juneteenth is also an important celebration.
Freedom from the Confederacy
On January 1, 1863, a date known as Emancipation Day, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all enslaved peoples in the Confederacy. This move turned the war into a fight for freedom, and by its end, 200,000 black soldiers had joined the war, spreading news of independence as they fought their way through the South.
Even after the last Civil War battle happened in 1865—two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation—it is believed many of the enslaved still did not know they were free. As the story goes, some 250,000 enslaved people only learned of their freedom after General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. In a citywide gathering that day, he announced that President Abraham Lincoln had issued a proclamation freeing them.
Juneteenth’s Relevance Today
So, why is this milestone important over 150 years later?
Three words: Black Lives Matter
The death of 46-year-old George Floyd (an African-American) in the custody of the Minneapolis Police in May 2020 became a rallying force for change across the country, effectively reenergizing the Black Lives Matter movement, which was established back in 2013.
As a result of the outcries, Minneapolis Police Chief Cassandra Holmes banned chokeholds and strangleholds by the police. She also commanded officers to intervene and report any use of unauthorized force.
Congressional Democrats revealed sweeping legislation targeting police misconduct and racial discrimination, a bill that was the most expansive intervention into policing that lawmakers recently proposed.
Across the business spectrum, companies voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement and either suspended or fired employees who mocked Mr. Floyd’s death or made racist remarks.
Thus, Juneteenth must not just be a celebratory moment in American history but a reflective one as well, one that stresses the importance of freed peoples and the need for social equality, justice, and change.
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