Our country recognizes holidays like the Fourth of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and many others nationally every year. We have sales, T.V. specials, over-the-top decorations, the whole nine yards. These holidays originated from a white-washed narrative and continue to feed into that narrative. This year, there’s a social urge from the Black community to celebrate Juneteenth and make it a national holiday.
What is Juneteenth?
Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is celebrated annually to commemorate the proclamation of freed slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. Although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the proclamation did not impact Texas. There weren’t enough Union troops to enforce the proclamation. General Robert E. Lee surrendered and Major General Gordon Granger and his regiment stepped in to enforce the order. There are many versions of this story such as the murder of the initial messenger on the way to delivering the order to slave owners withholding the news to ensure slave labor. Either way, we’re thankful for the news to have been delivered when it did.
Of course with this news, Black people celebrated with festivities and food. The holiday didn’t receive support by anyone outside the Black community. So, as Black people became land-owners, they donated and dedicated land specifically for Juneteenth celebrations. In Mexia, Texas, Booker T. Washington Park became the designated Juneteenth celebration site and hosted the state’s largest Juneteenth celebration with an attendance of over 20,000 Black people.
What happened to Juneteenth?
Juneteenth celebrations fell off around the early 1900s due to economic and cultural differences. Schools and textbooks thought just mentioning the Emancipation Proclamation was enough, so they took out teaching Juneteenth in the education system. They also thought that it would take away from the Fourth of July. The holiday picked up again during the Civil Rights movement and sparked the biggest celebrations in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
Today, Juneteenth celebrations are rising as more Black people do their history homework about their culture. Because of the miseducation of so many millennials and gen-z individuals in their early years of school, not many people were aware of the holiday. As we continue to do our research, we celebrate how far we’ve come and our Black culture. We still carry the tradition of holding festivities in the park and enjoying some good soul food, but there’s a push for something more.
Make Juneteenth a National Holiday
Juneteenth should be recognized as a national holiday the same as other holidays. A Black, nationally recognized holiday will force society to see Black people, own up to the nation’s history with Black people, and understand today’s current events. Paid time off and pro-Black products showcased nationwide wouldn’t be too bad, either.
Activists push for the holiday to be nationally recognized through petitions and their platforms. Nike, Target, JCPenny, and Best Buy are recognizing the holiday by declaring it a paid national holiday for their employees. Although these are great gestures, things still have to change within the modern legal and social system.
You can celebrate Juneteenth in many ways. Have a cookout, support black-owned businesses, attend Juneteenth festivities in your area, sign the petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and overall, embrace your blackness.