As Black Americans continue to face the same challenges and inequities that inspired so many to take to the streets in 2020, it’s worth reflecting on the history behind the holiday.
Juneteenth — also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day and Emancipation Day — commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” the order read. “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
How it’s celebrated
What began as an informal celebration of freedom by locals in Galveston eventually grew into a wider commemoration of the end of slavery as African Americans in Texas moved to other parts of the country. Today, many African Americans mark Juneteenth with parties, parades and gatherings with family and friends.
Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday in 1980. In addition to it being a federal holiday, all 50 states and Washington, DC, recognize Juneteenth in some form.
As many of those calling for widespread changes suggest, observing Juneteenth might then be an opportunity to reflect on how far the nation has come — and how much further there is to go.
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