June 19 is a day of freedom and independence for many people in the US. No, this isn’t confusing today for July 4, This is about Juneteenth, the day slaves in the US were finally able to be truly free.
While the time of slavery may be over in America, however, the influence of racism has yet to fade away. People of color are still oppressed in the US, and the influx of police brutality is only making things worse.
This makes Juneteenth even more prominent now more than ever. But if it’s so important, why isn’t it so famous? Here’s a look into the history of this holiday and why it’s essential today and beyond.
The History of Juneteenth
While July 4, 1776, is America’s Independence Day, back then not everyone was truly free. To slaves, it was just another year.
The origins of Juneteenth can be traced back to the American Civil War. On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of the Civil War, and that all slaves were free.
This took place a couple of months after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at the Battle of Appomattox Court House on April 9, a decisive battle that marked the beginning of the end for Confederate forces.
Today we honor and celebrate the slaves that were freed on June 19, 1865. However, we must also take this time to see that there is still work to be done to #FightRacism, and take action to promote equality and acceptance for every human being. #Juneteenth #LetLoveRule #WeAreOne pic.twitter.com/legnuzfpFi
— Lenny Kravitz (@LennyKravitz) June 19, 2020
One important fact to consider is that Juneteenth does not necessarily mark the day slavery ended in the US. Technically, slavery was abolished in America on January 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln gave his famed Emancipation Proclamation.
I know this is super nit-picky, but Juneteenth isn't the day when slaves were freed. It marks the day when Texas slaves found out they had been free…..2 years earlier.
— A.T. The Dallas Nightlife Ambassador (@OhThatsAT) June 13, 2020
However, the proclamation hardly had any real effect outside of the Union.
In fact, it essentially had little effect on the Confederacy, since they didn’t acknowledge President Lincoln’s authority. Meanwhile, in Confederate territories often occupied by the Union, they often lacked the manpower to enforce the order.
Juneteenth, in reality, is the day when the last of America’s slaves actually found out they were free, but really they had technically been free since the Emancipation Proclamation. It was only on Juneteenth that it actually began to get enforced across the country at the time.
Why it’s important
While the time of slavery is long past, and America has come a long way since then, unfortunately, it’s still not perfect.
Racism is still present in many aspects of society. With the issue of police brutality back in the public eye as well, it shows that the US still has a ways to go in order to be truly equitable for everyone.
That’s why this year’s celebration of Juneteenth is especially important. The holiday’s message of independence and liberation truly resonates in the current social climate.
Juneteenth originally started out as a celebration of independence in Texas, but since then it’s spread beyond and started to take root across the country.
Despite the important values it celebrates, however, it’s still struggled to break into the mainstream until today. After all, can everyone honestly say they’ve heard of Juneteenth before today, much less this year?
With America’s issues of systemic racism and police brutality now more significantly exposed, this has arguably given Juneteenth the opportunity needed to emerge as a light of hope in these dark times.
This holiday should not be important just over the course of this year, however, but even in the years beyond.