President Joe Biden signed a resolution on June 17, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. This comes after the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution 2 days prior. The holiday represents an important part in the story of many American’s lives.
It is important this holiday gets the recognition it deserves.
For most of my life I didn’t know this holiday existed, and only recently did I learn what it signified. My own mother and father hadn’t even heard of it until last year. I never heard about Juneteenth in any of my public high school history classes.
I fear lots of people may be facing the same lack of exposure.
One hundred and fifty-eight years ago, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Two years later, on the hot summer day of June 19, 1865, federal soldiers retook control of the last confederate state. Standing in Galveston, Texas, General Gordon Grander announced that the “people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
The failure of our education to include such an impactful day for Black people is not a great shock to me, unfortunately. If as a country we are going to educate the youth of America, we need to do better in honoring the Black community and educating about the egregious injustices placed upon them.
Juneteenth is a day for celebration of freedom and embracing history. Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day are all names that are synonymous with Juneteenth. Although Juneteenth symbolizes the end of slavery, the Thirteenth Amendment which passed in January of 1865 officially abolished slavery in the United States. There are still constant struggles the Black community faces every day as the fight against racism surges on. Juneteenth allows for everyone to look back onto history and take that knowledge with us on the journey to equity.
The Fourth of July is arguably one of the most important days for Americans. It is viewed as the day America was established as an independent nation and became the home of the free—or at least the home of the white, rich, free men.
“Freedom” is a word closely aligned with America and the life that American soil can offer. However, freedom is a reserved right for those who can afford it. Juneteenth is a larger notion of freedom in this country and should be understood as such. If we are able to come to terms with the past, we may be able to move forward. It is important we learn to honor June 19 and continue to aspire to create a more equitable world.
Sydney Avery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sydneyavery08