Juneteenth: Everything to Know About the Holiday

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Last year, President Joe Biden officially made Juneteenth a federal holiday when he signed legislation, but the day has been celebrated long before this. Juneteenth celebrates and commemorates the end of slavery after the Civil war and has been celebrated by African Americans since the 1800s. After the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in 2020, and the recent massacre committed by a white gunman who killed 1o Black people being filed as a federal hate crime, it remains important to not only know the roots behind Juneteenth but the current events that make it relevant to this day.

What is Juneteenth?

According to the Smithsonian museum, “Freedom’s Eve” or January 1, 1863 marks when enslaved people in Confederate states were declared free. But, not every enslaved person was free just because of the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas remained under Confederate control, making the 13th amendment unable to be implemented. It took 2 years for “2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas. The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree.” This occurred on June 19th, 1865, and officially became known as “Juneteenth.”

Juneteenth historically has been celebrated with prayers and family gatherings. Now, celebrations continue to take place among families, but some major cities hold larger events. Galveston remains a place for events and will celebrate this year with a banquet and admire the mural dedicated in 2o22.

Although the importance of the holiday never wavered, some wondered why it seemed to emerge into the public eye. After the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, thousands began to protest the cruelty and continued racism in today’s society. Although Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of slaves, it does not represent the end of racism by any means. With the protests and begs for change by the Black Lives Matter movement, Juneteenth represented a holiday that resonated with many across the country. According to the NY Times, Mark Anthony Neal, an African American scholar, believes “there are some comparisons between the end of the Civil War to the unrest that swept the country, adding that the moment felt like a “rupture.”



Neal noted the day feels a bit different now, “It’s an opportunity for folks to kind of catch their breath about what has been this incredible pace of change and shifting that we’ve seen.” On Twitter, one person explained Juneteenth is important because “. Juneteenth is a day for us to show our pride in our ancestors and their stories, while also showing pride for our heritage and culture as well. It’s a day for the acknowledgment of how far we’ve come as a community, as well as how much farther we still have to go.”

But, many pointed out that Juneteenth can be celebrated as a federal holiday, but in some states, it remains controversial to teach about. According to UCLA, “a 2020 investigation by CBS News examining how Black history is taught across the United States found seven states do not directly mention slavery in their state standards and eight states do not mention the civil rights movement. Only two states specifically mention white supremacy, while curricula in 16 states list “states’ rights” as a cause of the Civil War.” So, many pointed out that while Juneteenth can now be celebrated as a federal holiday, it remains a gap in education for many students, which many point out would be like refusing to teach the history behind the 4th of July.

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