“Yeah, the 4th of July is great, but have you heard of Juneteenth?”
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the day that celebrates the official end of slavery in America. It is often referred to at the Black fourth of July because it is the day when Black people received their freedom and independence. Although America was an independent country at that time, Black people were not viewed as independent bodies. Juneteenth, which is also referred to at Emancipation Day and Jubilee Day, celebrates the true, legislative acknowledgement of Black independence in America.
The history of Juneteenth begins nearly 3 years prior to it’s day in 1865.
In September of 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This executive order declared that all enslaved African-Americans in the Confederate states were to be freed immediately. The Proclamation allowed many enslaved African-Americans were able to escape their masters and find freedom beyond Union lines; however, not all Confederate states complied with the legislation and continued to harbour their slaves.
One of the states that did not comply was Texas. Texas had a minimal number of Union troops stationed within the state, which made it difficult for the Emancipation Proclamation to be enforced. In addition, the majority of the surrounding states were also Confederate states, which were all patrolled by Confederate soldiers. This made it difficult for Union troops to penetrate and free slaves without suffering mass losses. Due to the lack of Union supervision, Texas and the lack of other Confederate states hid the news of emancipation from their slaves.
After Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, the purpose of the ongoing Civil War that was taking place changed. The war no longer became just about preserving the Union; it became about freeing slaves. The Commander of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee, would soon find himself surrendering to the Union in April of 1865, thus ending the Civil War.
At this time, General Gordon Granger would establish himself as the leader of the Union troops. With the end of the Civil War and fall of the Confederate regime, the Union could now infiltrate Texas to retrieve the enslaved African-Americans. Once Granger arrived in Texas on June 19th, 1865, with Union troops, he announced that the Civil War had ended. Granger enforced the New Executive Order and proclaimed that the enslaved were now, and forever would be, free. It was from this that Juneteenth was born.
Why is Juneteenth so important to celebrate today?
Juneteenth marked the beginning of African-American freedom from slavery; however, they continued to experience violence and oppression from their white counterparts and the government. Marginalization, discrimination and brutality are obstacles that the African-American community still experience today. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks are prime examples of how Black lives are not humanized in America.
Although technically we are free, the government still views us as threats that need to be contained or property to use and dispose of at will. The fight for equality did not end the moment Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation. The fight for equality has and will continue to go on until Black people are treated as equal in every aspect of society. Juneteenth reminds us of the resilience of our ancestors and how they continued to fight until they received their freedom. This day of remembrance and celebration should be used to fuel our battles against inequality, discrimination, and anti-Blackness.
As we partake in Juneteenth festivities, we should demand that the American legislature acknowledge and contend with this country’s history and legacy of slavery.Tweet
Black history is American history. It is not separate. It is unified. To ignore the legacy that slavery and white supremacy have had is not the solution. This only ignores the elements of racism that are embedded in the justice system, government, and several other aspects of society. Ignoring slavery disregards the pain that African-Americans feel when they are dehumanized, marginalized, or ignored. We need to acknowledge slavery to rectify the ways that it is still embedded in America today. This is why Juneteenth should be celebrated by all and not just by Black people.
If you believe that Juneteenth should be acknowledged and supported by the nation, sign this petition.
This petition linked above will direct you to the Black Lives Matter website. This petition is moving to have Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday in America. This means that on June 19th, offices, banks, postal services, schools and other services would be closed to allow space for celebration. Currently, Juneteenth is only recognized as a state holiday in some states. This needs to change so that all of America can acknowledge the history of slavery and celebrate its end.
What are your thoughts? How are your celebrating Juneteenth?
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