As the fight for justice continues in America and the push for civil rights goes on, it’s important to understand the significance of Juneteenth—and to celebrate it.
Many may not have heard of Juneteenth—American federal holidays are white-washed in the history books from primary school on. There’s a holiday essentially celebrating a white man who committed genocide but not one celebrating the end of slavery in the United States.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved were now free. Note, this happened two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, since Texas was mostly occupied by Confederate soldiers at the time, Union soldiers were easily overpowered, thus making enforcement of the new executive order extremely difficult. Once Granger entered the scene with his troops, the order was announced and now had the strength to be enforced.
Juneteenth is celebrated by focusing on education and self-improvement. Families are encouraged to celebrate together and rejoice in that historical moment, and many organizations feature guest speakers discussing Black history.
You can also find many neighborhood block parties gathering for the occasion—though due to COVID-19, many of these parties have pivoted to virtual events this year.
Juneteenth.com describes the reaction of newly freed slaves in 1865 ranging from “pure shock to immediate jubilation.” Such a momentous event should be forever praised and celebrated.
Today I will sign an Executive Order recognizing #Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees.
I will advance legislation to make it an official state holiday next year.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 17, 2020
In 2018, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution recognizing June 19 as “Juneteenth Independence Day.” Unfortunately, it still hasn’t been approved in the House. However, several U.S. states have declared Juneteenth an official state holiday, like Texas, Pennsylvania, and recently, New York. You can help make this day a national holiday by signing this petition.
This year, many New Yorkers are celebrating the momentous holiday by joining in on protests across the city. Unite NY is one organization that’s trying to combine all the protests to make one powerful march of people. You can check out more on where to march in NYC this Juneteenth via the justiceforgeorgenyc Instagram.