In the wake of recent protests regarding the treatment of black people, individuals and organizations are re-evaluating the way they view race and whether they are part of the problem. One part of that process is recognizing the U.S. history of slavery and its end.
June 19, 1865, also known as Juneteenth, signifies the end of slavery in America. It’s also known as “Freedom Day” or “Black Independence Day.”
The U.S. celebrates holidays recognizing historical figures, including presidents, Christopher Columbus and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but Juneteenth, is not recognized as a federal holiday.
As more conversations about race and community continue recognizing Juneteenth is a way to acknowledge the U.S. history of enslaving people and possibly a way forward.
Here are some things to know about this date in American history.
What does it signify?
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger came to Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the Civil War and slavery. Although slavery was already abolished more than two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln, it continued in some areas.
Read Granger’s announcement in Texas below:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Why is it important to recognize?
Celebrating and recognizing Juneteenth acknowledges the history of slavery in the U.S. as well as the injustices inflicted upon Americans for hundreds of years.
Should it be a federal holiday?
Advocates of racial justice and equality say it should be. However, most state already recognize the day.
Texans began celebrating Juneteenth in 1866 with parades and parties.
On Jan. 1, 1980, Juneteenth officially became a Texas state holiday. Texas State Rep. Al Edwards put forward the bill making Texas the first state to grant this emancipation celebration.
Most states observe it in some way, except three: Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
More recently, employers including, Twitter, Nike, The New York Times and the NFL have announced they will now include Juneteenth as a paid holiday for their workers.
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