America celebrates ‘Juneteenth’

America celebrates ‘Juneteenth’

On June 19, the United States commemorates Juneteenth, a pivotal day marking the end of slavery and a significant chapter in American history. Known as Emancipation Day, this day has long been celebrated by Black communities, but recent discussions on racial justice have propelled it into broader national recognition.

Juneteenth, a blend of “June” and “nineteenth,” traces its roots to June 19, 1865. On that day, Union troops led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, announcing the freedom of over 250,000 enslaved Black people.

This declaration came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which had little immediate effect in Confederate-controlled areas. The nationwide abolition of slavery was only cemented with the ratification of the 13th Amendment later in 1865.

Momentous day

For many, the news brought “indescribable joy,” leading to jubilant celebrations across Texas. Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Black Independence Day, and it holds profound meaning for the Black community. “June 19 was a momentous day,” john a. powell, director of the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, noted, emphasizing the ongoing struggle for equality.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed describes Juneteenth as a time for community and reflection. In her book “On Juneteenth,” she highlights the day’s significance in the broader fight for human rights and the hope for a better, more just union.

Ways to celebrate

Traditionally, Juneteenth has been marked by parades, street parties, and cookouts. It’s a time to gather, share food, and remember history. Red-coloured drinks and dishes, such as barbecue and red velvet cake, feature prominently, symbolizing resilience and cultural heritage. Galveston, the birthplace of Juneteenth celebrations, will host events like documentary screenings and live music. In Washington, D.C., the National Archives will display historic documents, including the Emancipation Proclamation.

Federal Holiday

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, signed into law by President Biden amid a nationwide push for racial justice following George Floyd’s murder. This legislation received bipartisan support, with President Biden calling it “one of the greatest honours” of his presidency.

Currently, at least 30 states and the District of Columbia recognise Juneteenth as a public holiday. Texas was the first to do so in 1980. Recent additions include Kansas and Rhode Island, while states like Alabama and Alaska are considering similar measures.

On Juneteenth, federal offices, many banks, and courts will be closed. The stock market will also observe the holiday, although services like UPS and FedEx will continue operations.

Juneteenth is a reminder of the enduring journey towards freedom and equality, reflecting on the past while inspiring continued progress. As Vice President Harris remarked, “It is not only a day of pride, but also a day for us to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action.”