Juneteenth: What is it? Why is it celebrated?

~ Frederick Douglass

Yesterday was Juneteenth, a federally recognized holiday celebrated on June 19th each year. [I have to admit I never heard of the federal holiday until a few years ago.] Even though Juneteenth has been a holiday since June 19, 1986 it did not become a federal holiday until June 2021 when President Joe Biden signed the legislation. Juneteenth has actually been around a lot longer than that, since June 19, 1865.

~ ThoughtCo.

Juneteenth is also known as “Emancipation Day” or “Freedom Day”. It commemorates June 19, 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas and gave word to enslaved African Americans that they were free. It was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Who declared Juneteenth to be a holiday? General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued practically two and a half years earlier, on January 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.

“Juneteenth” is named thusly by combining “June” and “nineteenth.” It references the date of the holiday. It was on June 19, 1865 that people in Galveston were informed of their freedom and the end of the Civil War. Before then they hadn’t known it was over and they were freed. The reason being the plantation owners did not inform their slaves of the proclamation. So they did not know until the federal government sent troops down to Texas to let them know.

Freed black men and women of Texas rallied around June 19th, not because it was the date that they were freed but because it was the date they were informed of their freedom. They turned the day from a day of unheeded military orders into an annual rite, beginning in 1866. The day they were informed they whooped and hollered and and bored holes in trees. They packed them with gun powder and lit them so there would be a blast for their celebration. This information has been quoted in Hayes Turner’s essay.

Juneteenth flag

The Juneteenth flag was created by Ben Haith in 1997. The flag is a symbolic representation of the end of slavery. In the United States. Ben Haith is the founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF). Haith had help from collaborators and illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf who was instrumental in bringing their vision to life. The date June 19, 1865 was not added to the flag until 2000.

The holiday has been around awhile now, but like me not everyone knew of its existence until a couple of years ago. Even though I was born in the South, I grew up out west in San Diego, California. I do not remember having African American classmates until high school. Yes, we were taught about the Civil War and the Emancipation. However, the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t realized by myself and probably others when I was a child.

All people of all races deserve to be free, respected, and treated equally no matter where they live. They deserve equal rights and equality in all aspects of life.

God bless. Hope everyone was able to celebrate not Father’s yesterday, but also Juneteenth. Remember freedom for everyone is to be celebrated. We are all free or should be. I won’t go into Modern Slavery except to say all slavery of every time should be abolished everywhere, for everyone.

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