Juneteenth: June 19, 1865. What is this? Is this a national holiday? What is the significance of this day? Let me tell you about this important day and why it is vital to me.
I will start by clearing up a misconception that some people may have. No, slavery was not abolished on this day. Slavery was abolished when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, followed by the 13th Amendment—which abolished legal slavery in the United States—being passed by Congress in 1865.
Well then, why does Juneteenth have any impact on the African American population?
History time! There were no social media like Instagram and Facebook in the 19th century. Word had not spread to all the enslaved African Americans down South that they were truly freed until Union soldiers came to Texas in 1865 with the news that the Civil War was over and that slaves were now free. Juneteenth started off as a celebration in Galveston, Texas. That is where African Americans formed the holiday to commemorate the end of slavery, a struggle we endured for hundreds of years. The spread of Juneteenth resulted from the Great Migration to northern and western states by African Americans, where they sought better opportunities for their families and friends. This resulted in a national observance of the holiday, and not just a Texas-based one.
Juneteenth represents true freedom and the optimism that better days are to come in our future.
Juneteenth is important to me for several reasons. Enslaved people longed for freedom all their lives, and some would never have fathomed being able to exercise basic human rights. Juneteenth represents true freedom and the optimism that better days are to come in our future. It is a time to not only celebrate with family and friends but to also remember how far we have come as a people. As a product of two African parents, I realize through living in America that my life struggles are very similar to those of African Americans’. We share the same financial, educational, and social-economic struggles, but when we have a holiday such as Juneteenth, it reminds me of our daily fight for civil rights. This helps remind me of the fact that we are moving closer to being a better American society.
Today, there are only 47 states that recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, with a push for the day to become a Federal Holiday. In my opinion, the difference between the Fourth of July and Juneteenth is that Independence Day is the recognition for freedom of White Americans from British rule in the United States. Juneteenth should be recognized as a Federal Holiday, signifying true freedom for ALL Americans in the United States.
Addendum: The Senate unanimously passed a resolution on June 15, 2021, establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a U.S. holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The House moved quickly Wednesday, June 16th, to pass the bill, and President Biden will sign the bill in the East Room on Thursday, June 17th.