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All You Need To Know About Juneteenth

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a significant holiday that has been celebrated by communities across the United States for more than a century. While its roots go back to the post-Civil War era, it wasn’t until June 19, 2021, that Juneteenth was officially recognized as a federal holiday. This recognition came in the wake of a renewed national conversation about racial justice and the historical significance of the day. President Joe Biden signed legislation to add Juneteenth to the government holiday calendar, making it one of only 12 federally recognized holidays in the United States. The move was a landmark decision, reflecting the importance of acknowledging and learning from America’s complex history.

The Origins of Juneteenth

Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger’s Proclamation

The origins of Juneteenth date back to June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, a Union General during the Civil War, issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, Texas. This order announced that all enslaved people were free, as stipulated by the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln more than two years prior. However, due to the slow spread of information and the persistence of Confederate control, many enslaved individuals in Texas remained unaware of their freedom until Granger’s proclamation.

The Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment

The Emancipation Proclamation, declared on January 1, 1863, stated that all persons held as slaves in the rebellious states were to be freed. Yet, this proclamation had little immediate effect in areas still under Confederate control. It wasn’t until the end of the Civil War in April 1865 that the proclamation could be enforced throughout the South. The formal abolition of slavery across the entire United States came with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865, solidifying the end of slavery as an institution.

Celebrating Juneteenth Across States

State and Local Observances

For decades, Juneteenth was predominantly celebrated in Texas, where it originated. Texas officially declared it a state holiday in 1980. However, as awareness of the holiday grew, other states began to recognize and celebrate it as well. States such as Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia passed laws in recent years to formally acknowledge Juneteenth, reflecting a growing national recognition of its importance.

Differing Dates of Emancipation Recognition

While Juneteenth is the most widely recognized date marking the end of slavery, other states have observed different dates to commemorate emancipation. For example, Florida celebrates Emancipation Day on May 20, the date when enslaved people there were informed of their freedom. Washington, D.C., has historically observed Emancipation Day on April 16, marking the day in 1862 when President Lincoln signed a law to abolish slavery in the nation’s capital.

The Road to Federal Recognition

Momentum from the Black Lives Matter Movement

The push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday gained significant momentum in 2020, a year marked by nationwide protests and a renewed focus on racial justice following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and others at the hands of police. These events led to a broader societal reckoning with racism and a renewed push to honor Juneteenth as a day of both celebration and reflection on the long history of slavery in America.

Legislative Journey

Legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday was introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sen. Ed Markey. Despite initial resistance from some lawmakers, the bill gained bipartisan support and was passed by the Senate unanimously and by the House with an overwhelming majority of 415-14. The opposition came primarily from Republicans, with arguments suggesting that adding Juneteenth as a federal holiday might create division by juxtaposing it against Independence Day on July 4. However, these arguments did not hold sway, and the bill was swiftly passed.

President Biden’s Signing and the First Federal Juneteenth

On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making Juneteenth the newest federal holiday. The first federally recognized Juneteenth was observed the very next day, June 18, 2021, since June 19 fell on a Saturday that year. Government offices and numerous private businesses closed in observance, marking a historic moment for the nation.

Why Juneteenth Matters

Cultural and Historical Significance

Juneteenth is more than just a celebration of the end of slavery; it represents a moment of profound historical and cultural significance. It commemorates the resilience and struggle of Black Americans and serves as a reminder of the long and ongoing journey toward true equality and justice in the United States. Observing Juneteenth encourages all Americans to reflect on the history of slavery and its lasting impact on society.

Creating Community and Connection

Juneteenth has long been a time for Black communities to come together, celebrate their heritage, and reinforce bonds of solidarity. According to Koritha Mitchell, an English professor at Ohio State University, celebrating Juneteenth helped shape her identity and provided a sense of community and connection. It was a time when her neighborhood in Sugar Land, Texas, became the place to be, filled with joy and camaraderie among Black people who gathered to honor their shared history and achievements.

Advancing Racial Justice and Equality

The recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday is also a step toward advancing racial justice and equality. It acknowledges the historical injustices faced by Black Americans and highlights the importance of continuing to address systemic racism and inequality. As Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee stated after the House passed the legislation, making Juneteenth a national holiday is part of a broader effort to change lives for justice, equality, and freedom.

How to Celebrate and Educate

Community Events and Festivities

Communities across the country celebrate Juneteenth with parades, festivals, and educational events. These celebrations often include music, food, and performances that highlight Black culture and history. Participating in local events is a great way to honor the holiday and learn more about its significance.

Educational Resources and Discussions

Juneteenth also provides an opportunity for educational initiatives. Schools, libraries, and community organizations often host events and provide resources to educate people about the history of slavery, the Civil War, and the ongoing struggle for civil rights. Engaging in discussions and learning about this history is crucial for fostering a deeper understanding of Juneteenth and its importance.

Supporting Black-Owned Businesses and Organizations

Another meaningful way to celebrate Juneteenth is by supporting Black-owned businesses and organizations. This not only honors the holiday but also contributes to the economic empowerment of Black communities. Consider shopping at Black-owned stores, dining at Black-owned restaurants, and donating to organizations that work toward racial justice and equality.

The Path Forward

Juneteenth’s recognition as a federal holiday is a significant milestone, but it is only one step in a broader journey toward racial justice and equality. As we celebrate this important day, let us continue to push for policies and practices that address systemic racism and promote equity for all.

For the latest insights on Juneteenth and other important topics, visit SFL.Media. Stay informed about trends in the workplace, community events, and efforts to promote justice and equality. Join us in advocating for a more inclusive and supportive environment for all individuals, and let’s work together to create a future where freedom and justice truly prevail.

Celebrate Juneteenth with SFL.Media by engaging in local events, educating yourself and others, and supporting Black-owned businesses. Stay connected with SFL.Media for reliable and up-to-date news on social justice, community empowerment, and more. Together, we can honor the legacy of Juneteenth and continue the work toward a more equitable society.

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