What Is Juneteenth?

So once again we have another holiday piece on the blog. This is a new holiday for the blog but not a new holiday on the calendar. It is though now a federal holiday in the U.S. That is significant because most government services, and banks are closed. Juneteenth, in brief is the celebration of the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. One of the darkest blights on this complex nation is slavery. It was not exclusive to the U.S. but even today some still grapple with its legacy.

This post isn’t meant to tackle racial issues in the U.S. They exist and there are plenty of resources for you out there should you want more narrative on that. What we examine here is the actual specifics of holidays. Juneteenth is short for June 19th, you probably knew that. In the year 1865, that date is significant because federal troops arrived in Galveston Texas, took over the state and ensured any enslaved peoples were free.

This is significant because Texas was a hold out. After the South surrendered Texas refused to alter its slavery practices until, on June 19th 1865 they were forced to by federal forces. Texas hadn’t faced many (if any) military action on its soil during the war. Texas is a very unique state in how it came to be a state but at the time they were fiercely independent and with no federal presence (unlike much of the rest of the south) they felt they could continue on as usual with slavery.

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Freed men and women celebrated, and over the years June 19th became a symbol of “actual” freedom from slavery. Many people get confused with the emancipation proclamation of 1863 which didn’t free slaves at all. It was more of a declaration of intent by Lincoln, he still had to defeat the south before actual freedom could occur, thank god we did.

In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday; several others followed suit over the years. In June 2021, Congress passed a resolution establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday; President Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021. 

And so today is the official holiday. I have the day off from work, so do many Americans. The reality of the holiday is, most non-African Americans don’t have a formal tradition to celebrate. The African Americans in my life don’t celebrate it, that I know if anyway but I will see some of them on July 4th and will ask.

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