Yesterday, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making this upcoming Saturday the first Juneteenth celebrated as a federal holiday. This marks the first national recognition of a day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved black people and an opportunity for Americans to reflect on the past for a brighter furture.
On June 19th in 1865 Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Texas to issue a general order stating:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
As history buffs may note, this was two and half years from the date set forth in the Emancipation Proclamation, a striking delay in the delivery of freedom. Many slave owners kept the information quiet and continued to hold their enslaved people, for whom it was against the law to read, and therefore had to learn on their own. Celebrating this particular June date symbolically highlighted that nobody in a community is truly free until everyone has been freed.
Juneteenth Emancipation Day marks an occasion for community events such as parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical and cultural readings, and musical performances. It also serves to memorialize the preserving spirit of black Americans whose liberation has been delayed time and again.
As recently as last year a Harris poll found the 42% of Americans were either ‘not very aware’ or ‘not at all aware’ of the holiday even though 48 states had some recognition of it. For some, this makes Juneteenth an ideal day for education and civic engagement. The traditional narrative of America does not contain many, if any, black voices. While the path to correcting that appears long and divided, using Juneteenth Emancipation Day to examine and understand the black experience in America is a great way to personally develop and celebrate.
End Natural Hair Workplace Discrimination – The Crown Act
Demand Justice – StandWithBre.com
Support Black Owned Businesses in Your Community
Help Other or Register Yourself to Vote – IAmVoteReady.com
While this federal recognition is a celebratory milestone, it is also just a step along the way to further healing the divide in America. There is work to be done and Americans should rise to the call.