As the nation continues to rally behind the Black Lives Matter movement, the push for celebrating Juneteenth as an official holiday has been growing 一 garnering support from government officials and prominent corporations.
Juneteenth — which gets its name from combining “June” and “19th” — is a widely recognized holiday that commemorates the freeing of the last slaves living in Galveston, Texas, a part of the Confederate South, on June 19, 1865. They received word they were free more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
This year the holiday has received more attention than usual, as the flood of recent protests across the United States has called for the recognition and appreciation of Black lives. As Steve Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, told USA Today, “Juneteenth is a unifying holiday. It is the completion of the celebration of freedom in America.”
The Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in January 1, 1863.
It took 2 and a half years for the enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas to be delivered the message that they were actually free.
That was June 19, 1865.
— Rosa Parks Cab Driver 👩🏾✈️ (@eleven8) June 16, 2020
Recently the proposed federal holiday made headlines after President Trump received backlash for planning a presidential rally on the very same day, in Tulsa, Okla. — a particularly alarming detail, as Tulsa is known for what has been called "the single worst incident of racial violence in American history,” the Black Wall Street Massacre. On Friday, Trump tweeted that he would reschedule his event “out of respect.”
On June 19, 1865 orders were read by Union general Gordon Granger that all slaves were proclaimed free. That day has become known as Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is not currently recognized as a Federal holiday, Help us change that. Take action.
💻 https://t.co/PSAONVKxva pic.twitter.com/xzMgk9QXZm
— LAFC (@LAFC) June 16, 2020
The push for official recognition
Traditionally Juneteenth has been celebrated with barbecues, parades, voter registration efforts, marches and exhibitions that honor the culture and history of Black people in America, with cities such as Minneapolis and Philadelphia being home to some of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country; some smaller cities, such as Turlock, Calif., are having their very first Juneteenth celebrations in 2020. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced some to scale back or cancel, though it has also given rise to new ways to celebrate, including virtual parties and album releases. Online movements like HellaJuneteenth and a now-viral Change.org petition started by 93-year-old Opal Lee have encouraged people to honor the holiday by joining the effort to have the day recognized as an official national holiday.
It's crazy how so many people of color are just now finding out the significance of June 19th. I can vividly remember going to almost every Juneteenth celebration in the Greenwood district of Tulsa.
— K_Webb (@Ttown_K) June 17, 2020
Local activist organization Las Dalias have organized Turlock’s first-ever Juneteenth celebration to take place at Donnelly Park on Friday.https://t.co/5hclTCQ13M
— Turlock Journal (@turlockjournal) June 17, 2020
I started planning a small Juneteenth BBQ for my friends/youth in my community....... and now it’s grown to 1,000+ interested/going responses on the Facebook page. The Milwaukee bucks might show up. The news is interviewing me this week. I need HELP. 😭
— tee lou (@teeliciouss_) June 9, 2020
The fight for Juneteenth to be recognized across the United States is one that has been waged for many years, as evidenced by a history of changes in states’ legislatures. Currently hundreds of cities, 46 states and the District of Columbia observe the holiday, with Texas being the first to do so back in 1980. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is the most recent to adopt the holiday; Virginia and New York also moved to do so this week, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing an executive order to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday this year and announcing plans to introduce legislation to make it permanent. In Virginia earlier this week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced his own legislation to do so while standing alongside Grammy-winning producer and Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams.
During the announcement, Northam acknowledged the holiday as just “one step toward reconciliation,” giving executive branch state employees the day off. “Juneteenth deserves the same level of recognition and celebration,” said Williams. “July 4, 1776, not everybody was free and celebrating their Independence Day. So here’s our day. And if you love us, it will be your day too.” This marks the governor’s most recent attempt to rectify the history of Virginia as a Confederate state, as earlier this year, Northam signed a bill into law to remove the Lee-Jackson Day holiday, which honored Confederate generals.
"A paid holiday, it's not the end of it, it's just the beginning of it," Virginia Beach native @Pharrell said about Virginia declaring Juneteenth a state holiday.
"Black lives matter in the eyes of the commonwealth. They didn't always, but they do now." https://t.co/fMxRrFE5FO
— WAVY TV 10 (@WAVY_News) June 16, 2020
Corporate support grows
Also, many companies are now making Juneteenth a company holiday, offering their employees a paid day off. Among them are Twitter, Best Buy, Square, Nike, U.S. Bank, J.C. Penney, Quicken Loans and the NFL. “Both Twitter and Square are making #Juneteenth (June 19th) a company holiday in the US, forevermore,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted on June 9, calling it “a day for celebration, education, and connection.” Similarly, in a statement from the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell explained, “Juneteenth not only marks the end of slavery in the United States, but it also symbolizes freedom 一 a freedom that was delayed, and brutally resisted; and though decades of progress followed, a freedom for which we must continue to fight."
Target is also joining the growing trend by closing its Minneapolis headquarters for the day, giving full-time hourly employees the option to take a paid day off and paying time and a half to those who don’t. “We recognize that the racial trauma the country is experiencing now is not new, but throughout recent weeks there has been a sense that this time is, and has to be, different,” said Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, in a statement. “Juneteenth takes on additional significance in this moment.”
Effective this Friday, June 19th, #JuneteenthDay will be observed as an annual paid holiday for our entire organization.
We encourage everyone to use this day to learn more about freedom for all, the fight for equality, and the struggle to end racial injustice. pic.twitter.com/VZbHFsg207
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) June 15, 2020
We believe that Juneteenth should be a national holiday. This Friday, June 19, Futuri will honor #Juneteenth by making it a paid company holiday and closing our offices. We're encouraging our team to use this time to support a cause that encourages equality and inclusion. pic.twitter.com/8iidLKHRLC
— Futuri (@FUTURIinc) June 15, 2020
On Friday, June 19, Harvard will be closed to commemorate Juneteenth https://t.co/GSJN1KID8l
— Harvard University (@Harvard) June 16, 2020
Some are even pushing to replace July Fourth with Juneteenth, or what some are calling America’s True Independence Day (or, alternately, Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day or Black Independence Day). Frederick Douglass first raised the issue in his 1852 address, asking: “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” He continued, “a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”
More recently, author Elizabeth Lampkin wrote, “In the wake of recent events, I think it is time to rekindle the flame of reflection, rejoicing, rebuilding, and reconnecting with each other and our surrounding communities. Rather than celebrating a holiday that was not designed to acknowledge freedom for all, why not celebrate the oldest day in history that marked liberty for people of color.”
After much thought & prayer, I’ve decided that Juneteenth will replace July 4th on MY calendar! No work! Just a celebration of freedom. I’m even gonna fly a flag at my home! It’s time to take a stand! #BLM @DrJinCA
— Craig W. Johnson (@DrJinCA) June 15, 2020
lukewarm take: replace getting 4th of july being a federal holiday with juneteenth. We are not free until we are ALL free
— Jess just got married (@The_Gayest_Jess) June 16, 2020
Juneteenth should replace July 4th as America's true Independence Day. https://t.co/mEySGRcorm
— Osha Davidson (@OshaDavidson) June 13, 2020
— Everything DC MD & VA (@TheDMVDailyy) June 15, 2020
Many echoed Lampkin’s sentiment — including Maahley Van der Woodson, spokesperson for the DMV Daily Black Lives Matter peaceful protest to Abolish July 4th (tweet above), who told Yahoo Life, “Despite the desire to completely abolish July 4th, we realize that is impractical. However, we believe Juneteenth should be a federal holiday recognized and honored nationwide. It is important to celebrate this day separate from July 4th, to highlight the fact that not all of us were free.”
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