What is Juneteenth and why is it so significant to black people? Now's the time to learn the history and where it stands today.
As many of us know, American Independence occurred on July 4th, 1776, but how many of us are aware of black independence? The unofficial holiday is celebrated by African-Americans each year and marks a moment in America's history when slaves were truly freed. So what is it and how did it occur?
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. It occurred on June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation came 2½ years earlier on January 1, 1863, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement, so Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.
What happened before Juneteenth?
Slave owners of the southern states refused to acknowledge the abolishment of slavery as stated in the Emancipation Proclamation, they began forming what was known as "The Confederate." These southern states adopted an ideology of white supremacy and did not want slavery abolished. So they formed their own union, which was called the Confederate States. It consisted of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
The "Union" also referred to as "The North" believed in a unified country free from slavery with a mission of granting equal rights to African-American slaves. Following the election of President Abraham Lincoln, the Confederate States seceded from the United States in 1861. His election was labeled as an "act of war" with the fear that armies would come to seize their slaves and force white women to marry black men. On April 12th, 1861 Confederate forces fired shots at Union troops at Fort Sumter which sparked the Civil war.
Confederate leadership consisted of elected President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee which existed from 1861 to 1865. The Confederate struggled for legitimacy and was never recognized as a sovereign nation. On April 9th, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant and by May 13th, 1865, Confederate officials announced that their government had ended meaning the Confederate States of America ceased to exist. With the Civil War officially ending and General Gordon Granger enforcing the release of slaves, June 19th, 1865 became a symbolism of freedom for black people.
Where Are We Today?
For years there's been controversy over the Confederate flag, it's meaning and purpose. For African-Americans, it's a symbolism of oppression, slavery, and racism. It's a trigger for trauma and a reminder of the nasty history of slavery in the United States. It's the reason why Confederate statues are being torn down and flags removed. Recently, NASCAR released a statement banning the confederate flag.
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors, and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
This week New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo declared Juneteenth a holiday for New York State employees. It will allow employees a full day's pay and if they're required to work, receive one day of compensatory time.
Currently, there are 48 states that either commemorate or observe Juneteenth as a holiday. Is it a Federal Holiday? No. Should it be? Yes. Acknowledging this day not only serves as a reminder to the African-American community, but it's also a reminder to the United States of a dark period at the injustices dealt to black people.
Article By: Jay Denson