06/17/2021 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Honoring Juneteenth

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Today, President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday. Also known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

A Brief History

Though the Emancipation Proclamation was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, for various reasons that declaration did not reach all parts of the country at once. In the case of Texas, it was not until June 19, 1865, that the news was announced. That day, Union Army General Granger led thousands of federal troops to Galveston to announce that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved people were free. However, slavery did not end on Juneteenth. When Gen. Granger arrived in Galveston, there still existed around 250,000 slaves and they were not all freed immediately, or even soon. It was not uncommon for slave owners, unwilling to give up free labor, to refuse to release their slaves until forced to, in person, by a representative of the government. Slavery was finally formally abolished after Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution nearly six months later, on December 6, 1865.

Juneteenth Today

The first Juneteenth – “June” plus “nineteenth” – celebration took place on June 19, 1866. But in many ways,  it wasn't until June 2020 that the holiday gained widespread recognition from the media, schools and colleges (Juneteenth has not been taught in many schools across the U.S.), and non-Black communities. A year after protests for racial justice swept the nation, a growing number of companies such as Nike and Target are embracing Juneteenth as a paid holiday; 49 states and Washington, D.C. recognize Juneteenth either as a state holiday or ceremonial holiday; and Americans will celebrate Juneteenth across the country with block parties, cookouts, and educational events. The Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and History in Washington, D.C., will hold presentations this year on the history and significance of Juneteenth and the stories that celebrate the wisdom of elders. Did you know there is also an official Juneteenth flag?

Juneteenth marks a day to reflect on the progress that has been made, but also the work that remains to be done. We acknowledge and celebrate this day and stand in solidarity with the Black community, committed to education, action, and real change both within our organization and in support of the schools we work with. We also recognize the struggle – historically and in our current moment – to achieve true freedom and justice for all. While the past year has shown that many in America are willing to fight against systemic racism, others are introducing legislation to ban anti-racist education, lessons that would help students understand the significance of a holiday like Juneteenth.

As the American public continues to grapple with how to talk about slavery, racism, and its consequences, the national recognition of Juneteenth is only a start to acknowledging and recognizing Black history.

Carney Sandoe will be observing Juneteenth on Friday, June 18. Below are some resources for learning more about and celebrating the historic and lasting importance of this day.

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