Juneteenth 155th Year of Celebration

Davis, K. C. (2011, June 15). Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day. Retrieved June 11, 2020,
from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/juneteenth-our-other-independence-day-16340952/

The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth. (2019, July 19). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from
https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/historical-legacy-juneteenth
Juneteenth: Fact Sheet. (2020, June 3). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44865.pdf

06/19/2020

“Juneteenth marks what is arguably the most significant event in American history after independence itself--the eradication of American slavery” (Davis).

Black Independence Day-June 19

Slavery has caused a deep, dark stain on American history and has continued as Black people in the United States fight to be treated as equal. “Before emancipation, America’s slaves and anyone else who prized equality, freedom and liberty knew that the Declaration of Independence only meant equality, freedom and liberty for some” (Davis). Slavery was a contradiction to what Thomas Jefferson thought the United States ideals should be: “Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” and “All men are created equal” (Davis). But emancipation did not mean that Black people would have equality, freedom and liberty.

“Juneteenth marks what is arguably the most significant event in American history after independence itself--the eradication of American slavery” (Davis).

On Freedom’s Eve, January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that freed all slaves in the Union. Enslaved and free African Americans gathered in churches and homes, praying for the news that the Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect (Historical Legacy). Union soldiers, many of whom were Black, marched across the country to plantations and cities, giving the good news of the Emancipation Proclamation to Blacks (Historical Legacy). There were several problems with the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation only gave freedom to Black slaves if they were able to escape the control of the Confederacy, it could not be implemented in states that were under Confederate control, and did not apply to the states who stayed in the Union and had slaves (Historical Legacy).

For Black slaves in the westernmost part of Texas would not be free until two years later. The people living in Texas did not know about Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox until two months after the Civil War ended. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, along with two thousand Union soldiers, arrived in Galveston Bay, TX. Here General Granger read General Order No. 3. announcing that 250,000 enslaved Black people were now free (Davis, Historical). The former slaves of Texas called this day “Juneteenth.” Not even a generation out of slavery, African Americans were inspired and empowered to transform their lives and their country. This day marks the United States’ second independence day (Historical Legacy).

Juneteenth has been celebrated in the Black community since the abolishment of slavery but this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans (Historical). Juneteenth was never recorded official respect or recognition and the bitterness of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, many states of the former Confederacy had no interest in celebrating the emancipation of slaves (Davis). With the increased migration of Blacks to the North, especially during the Great Depression, Juneteenth became a forgotten holiday (Davis). Over the past few decades, there has been a movement to revive the celebration of Juneteenth (Davis). Today, 47 states including the District of Columbia have enacted legislation that recognized Juneteenth. The three states that do not recognize the holiday are North Dakota, South Dakota, and Hawaii (Juneteenth: Fact Sheet).

“The historical legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times” (The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth).

Even though Black people have been free for over two hundred years, it does not mean that they are not still discriminated against and experience racism in their lives. Since the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment, Black people have fought to be viewed the same as white people. Reconstruction did little to help people, placing them in an almost never ending cycle of poverty. Jim Crow and Segregation became the new norm for Black Americans. Laws and rules enacted during this era were brought to bring Black people down, to make them feel like they were beneath whites. The Black people of this era were fighters. Fighting to have equal rights and to have the same opportunities.

The feeling that the slaves in Texas felt when they were liberated from slavery on Juneteenth has been felt by Black people after the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and most recently the changes that have occurred due to the protests.

After Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white man, many Black people in Montgomery, Alabama stopped using the bus system in the city for almost a little over a year. This boycott created change because bus companies around the United States were at risk of losing major business due to Blacks boycotting. In 1956, the Supreme Court found that it was against the Fourteenth Amendment for Black people to have to give up their seats to white people. This was a major win for Black people for their road to equality.

The killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd in May 2020 sent shockwaves around the world, opening the eyes of many to the injustices Black people face on a daily basis.The protests that resulted from the killings of Taylor, Arbery, and Floyd have shown the country that enough is enough. Black people are tired of having to fight for real action to take place and consequences to be enforced to those who do not follow the law.

Protests all over the world have not only called out racism but have vowed not to stop until action to stop racism is done. In response to these protests, Louisville, Kentucky, the city where Taylor was killed due to police going to the wrong house to issue a no-knock warrant, is no longer allowing no-knock warrants to be issued. In response to the murder of Floyd, many states, including New York, are no longer allowing police officers to use choke holds when arresting suspects. Statues of former Confederate generals and colonizers have been coming down by cities and protestors to show that they should not be glorified. One major outcome of these protests is cities beginning to divert money from police departments to other social programs that need funding.

Forty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, Black people have still been fighting racism in the United States. Just like those slaves in Texas who never gave up hope that they would become free, Black people today have never given up hope that they will be viewed and treated equally.

For many Black people, these changes are beginning to give Black people the freedom that they deserve. With Juneteenth coming up in seven days, it would be no surprise if celebrations are bigger. Just like our ancestors on Juneteenth in 1865, we have much to celebrate. Using the strength of our ancestors, we have demanded change. Demanding that we should be given the same respect and opportunity that should have been given to us on June 19, 1865 but were instead kept away from us.

As stated before, there is no federal holiday that observes Juneteenth. Some Black people believe that is wrong, wrong because another Independence Day in America history is not being recognized. With that being said, three businesses and companies have recognized that Juneteenth should be a holiday to show appreciation for Black people who built this country. Twitter, Nike, Square, and Vox Media will now recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday and is a step in the right direction.

Just like ancestors fought to be taken out of bondage and how our grandparents marched for their freedom, we do the same. Juneteenth is a reminder that all hard times come to an end. For most Black people, their lives are always uncertain. They live with fear, fear that they will be discriminated against while walking down the street or simply buying food at a store. With Juneteenth coming up in just seven days, it is important for Black people to understand their power. Their power to change the world!



Bibliography
Davis, K. C. (2011, June 15). Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day. Retrieved June 11, 2020,
from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/juneteenth-our-other-independence-day-16340952/

The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth. (2019, July 19). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from
https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/historical-legacy-juneteenth
Juneteenth: Fact Sheet. (2020, June 3). Retrieved June 11, 2020, from
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44865.pdf

2020 Black Business NOW - under development by GADDIS Group - Morgantown, WV