Juneteenth, marking the end of slavery in the United States, commemorates African-American freedom, while emphasizing education and achievement.
June 14, 2019: call for a national holiday
Boston Globe columnist Renée Graham wrote Juneteenth deserves high status, noting that many African Americans consider the July 4 holiday in the nation to be deeply ambivalent. Graham also mentioned that Thomas Jefferson, who wrote “All men are created equal,” owned hundreds of enslaved people. “
She went on to say, “As a day marking the independence of the United States, July 4 is incomplete. Only with the release of those thousands enslaved in Texas could this nation try to claim Jefferson’s lofty words as its own.”
1980 – Texas Declares June 16 State Holiday
While Texas was the first state to observe Juneteenth as a state holiday, many others have followed suit. Only five states do not recognize the day of the celebration: Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota and North Dakota.
July 2, 1964 – President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act
This law gave the federal government the power to enforce desegregation, while prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin.
August 28, 1963 – Martin Luther King, Jr. speech “I have a dream”
Dr. King spoke in front of approximately 200,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial. Now, half a century later, his speech is among the most inspiring of all time in United States history.
June 19, 1865: Texas slaves finally gain their freedom
Although they officially learned of the Emancipation Proclamation on this day, many slaves were left with their masters as paid hands. Of those who chose to leave their former owners, some were tracked down and killed. The proclamation did not mean immediate freedom.
How To Observe Juneteenth
Fly the flag of Juneteenth
Echoing the red, white, and blue of the US flag. The flag of Juneteenth means that slaves and their descendants are true Americans. A star in the center represents Texas, with a larger outer star representing new freedom and new people.
Attend a June 15 celebration
Some citizens in southern states celebrate with oral readings and stories from their ancestors, which is an honorable way to remember a bleak period in United States history. Celebrations also include cookouts, rodeos, concerts, and parades.
Watch a movie about slavery
Recent titles include 12 Years a Slave, Glory, Amistad, and Django Unchained.
5 COURAGEOUS AMERICANS WHO FIGHTED FOR EQUALITY
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Perhaps the most widely recognized name associated with the civil rights movement, Dr. King gave us the famous “I have a dream” speech in August 1963. His murder in 1968 demonstrated that the movement still had a lot of work to do.
With a simple refusal to turn over her seat on a public bus, Parks made a bold statement for African Americans in the South. Her arrest in December 1955 inspired the boycott of Montgomery buses.
Loving and her husband, Richard, were jailed for illegal cohabitation in Virginia, where interracial marriage was illegal in 1958. Her case reached the Supreme Court in 1967, which ruled in her favor unanimously.
Douglass, a runaway slave, became an advocate for the abolition of slavery and for women’s rights.
African-American slave Dred Scott sued for the release of his family in 1857. The Supreme Court ruled against him and found that no person of African descent could claim US citizenship.
WHY TOGETHER IS IMPORTANT
We need to learn from the mistakes of the past.
Recognizing our past helps us understand what we as a society must all do to improve.
Most of us cannot imagine a world like this. When Texas finally “freed” its slaves in 1865, it happened 30 months after Lincoln’s proclamation. Still, even today, the United States struggles with race relations.
Texas was the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday in 1980. Today is a “partial staff” holiday in Texas; government offices do not close, but agencies may operate with small staff.