Juneteenth, the True Independence Day

June 19, 2024

Juneteenth, the True Independence Day

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Happy Juneteenth!
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When talking about American independence, everyone knows and celebrates the Fourth of July. However, that is not the day that all Americans truly became free. We were still a country riddled by slavery and only recognizing slaves as a partial person. Any history buff knows this ultimately led to the American Civil War in which after this war we saw our true Independence Day, known to us now as Juneteenth. Juneteenth remains a relatively unfamiliar concept to many, despite its profound significance in American history. For decades, it received little to no attention in most U.S. school curriculum. However, the day has been one celebrated and recognized since its beginning by the Black community in the country.

So, for those who do not know, what is Juneteenth?

To start, let us have a brief history lesson. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, delivering news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved people were now free. If the date stands out as odd to you, that is because it is a bit odd. This news reached Texas two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and two months after General Robert E. Lee, of the Confederate Army, surrendered. Because of the speed of communication at the time, a delay is reasonable; however, even then news would not take two months to deliver. There was a distinct lack of urgency in enforcing emancipation in Confederate-held territories which led to large delays.

Nonetheless, the day the last slaves in the U.S. were freed birthed the day Juneteenth to celebrate.

Originally the day was known as Jubilee Day, in which former slaves, starting in Texas, would gather to commemorate their newfound freedom with music, prayers, food, and communal activities. As freed people migrated from Texas in the late 1860s, they carried the tradition with them, spreading Juneteenth celebrations to other states and communities of former slaves across the country.

Despite the holiday starting nearly two centuries ago, Juneteenth did not become a federal holiday until three years ago when President Joe Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021. However, some states had already recognized the day for a few decades, starting with Texas making it a state holiday in 1979.

The name comes from a combination of the date it celebrates, “June” and “nineteenth.”

Beyond its celebratory aspects, Juneteenth also signifies the beginning of Reconstruction, a period when the country sought to rebuild after the Civil War. It marked a time of hope and progress for the newly freed Black community, who immediately began advocating for their rights and dignity—a struggle that continues to this day. Now, the day is celebrated by recognizing and celebrating Black culture in the United States. Rallies and events can be found across the country to honor the momentous holiday.

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