Sunday, July 14, 2024

Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom

Have you ever pondered the significance of June 19th in American history? Juneteenth Day is celebrated to honor the removal of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth Independence Day, Black Independence Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, and Freedom Day are among other names for it. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and began enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation. This day is important because of that event. The final African Americans in slavery in the Confederate states were set free as a result of this.

The Historical Significance

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, stating that enslaved persons in the Southern states, including Texas, would be free as of January 1, 1863. However, the proclamation’s implementation could have been more active and balanced because Texas was outside Union authority and had few Union soldiers. The final slaves were not informed of their emancipation until General Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the proclamation was meant to go into force.

Source: CNN

Early Celebrations

Since 1866, Juneteenth festivities have been held annually. Initially, these celebrations were community gatherings centered around churches in Texas. With time it spread like wildfire and became more commercialized in the 1920s and 1930s. The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to other parts of the country facilitated the spread of these celebrations nationwide.

Source: NBC News

The Civil Rights Movement and Beyond

During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the focus shifted to the fight for civil rights, and Juneteenth celebrations declined. However, the holiday experienced a resurgence in the 1970s, with a renewed emphasis on African-American freedom and arts. Every state in the US and the District of Columbia has celebrated Juneteenth in some way. And with the exception of Texas, which did so legally through a proclamation in 1938 and legislation in 1979.

Juneteenth Today

The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021, making Juneteenth a nationwide holiday. Since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983, this was the first new federal holiday. In commemoration of the tenacity and accomplishments of African Americans, Juneteenth is honored nationally today with parades, concerts, and educational initiatives.

Why Juneteenth Matters

Source: BBC

Why is Juneteenth important? This day serves as a powerful reminder of the long and difficult journey toward freedom and equality. It encourages reflection on the progress made and the work that remains in the fight against racism and inequality. Celebrating Juneteenth helps keep the history and contributions of African Americans alive. It also helps in fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of their role in shaping the nation.

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