Juneteenth marks an effective end to slavery in the United States and is considered by many as the longest-running African American holiday.
It is also known as Emancipation Day. It’s June 19th…which is where we get the name Juneteenth a combination of June and Nineteenth. This commemorates June 19, 1865, the day the Union troops inGalveston, TX told slaves of their freedom.
While some would argue that the Emancipation proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln did that January 1, 1863, truth be told- it would be more than 2 years before all slaves would learn of their freedom.
So in essence, our country has 2 independence days…4thof July and Juneteenth. July 4, 1776 celebrates America’s freedom from Britain’s rule. Ironically in the declaration of Independence there is a clause that states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, thatall menare created equal unfortunately that all was not inclusive of black men and women. It was 89 years later that slaves were even lawfully considered free.
Did Juneteenth mean now everything was all good for African Americans…by no means and it still isn’t truthfully.
By Law they were free Men and Women but in reality, they were still enslaved by violence oppression and laws created to ensure that they remained that way. Segregation laws forbade even the celebration of Juneteenth in public spaces.
There were nearly 4 million slaves in the US in 1860. In 1980, Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday. Now in the US all but four states now celebrate Juneteenth. Shelby County has now made it a holiday. Legislation is now being presented in the State of TN to make it an official state holiday. It is important to note that Juneteenth is not a federal holiday in the US. The senate agreed to a resolution recognizing “Juneteenth Independence Day’ but the House has not done so…we are still working to get the US to recognize Juneteenth as a Federal holiday.
Juneteenth today becomes an opportunity to remind Americans of the contributions that African Americans have made to this country. It also serves as a reminder to African Americans of our past, our strong heritage and the struggle for access, equity, opportunity and to be represented with dignity. Americans recognize the anniversary with parties, celebrations, parades and gatherings with family and friends.
Back in the day they would dress up on their finest clothes. They would drink strawberry sodas, eat red fruit and desserts including red velvet cake…why do ask? To commemorate the bloodshed of many of our ancestors.
Juneteenth is a time to celebrate our history, learn about our past and move forward in Unity.