WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JUNETEENTH & INDEPENDENCE DAY?
As today is Juneteenth, a national celebration to commemorate the end of slavery, many will be honoring this Freedom Day while awaiting justice to be served for those who have died at the hands of an unjust system. Just a couple of years ago, racial tensions were sparked by the death of unarmed black man George Floyd and countless others, inciting protests across the globe for racial equality, justice, and police reform. Not only did it leave an indelible mark on our country’s history, but it was also a taunting reminder of how far we have to go despite being “freed” on June 19, 1865.
Nonetheless, Juneteenth is a time for celebration, and below is everything you need to know should you want to participate or simply spread awareness.
On June 19, 1865, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, the Major General Gordon Granger-led Union soldiers arrived at Galveston, TX, with news “that all persons held as slaves” were free; officially birthing the holiday Juneteenth—a mashup of June and Nineteenth.
“I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons,” read the Emancipation Proclamation.
Despite Lincoln’s executive order, there’s speculation surrounding the delay in freedom for all slaves, specifically those in Texas. Many attribute this delay to the lack of Union troops in the south, and subsequently their inability to enforce Abraham Lincoln’s order. Additionally, since the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to states that seceded from the Union, all slaves couldn’t be freed until the Civil War ended. It wasn’t until Confederate Commander General Robert E. Lee surrendered to President Ulysses S Grant on April 9, 1865, and Granger rolled up with his regiment that slave owners complied. Although all slaves were officially and technically free, slavery wasn’t abolished until the controversial 13th amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.
Mostly commemorated by a soiree of soul food staples, festivals, parades, historical programs, church services, and a host of other events, Juneteenth has been jumpin’ in the black community since its very inception. However, last year may have been the most celebrated yet—not to mention the most diverse—as major corporations such as Nike, NFL, Target, Uber, Twitter, Amazon publically recognized Juneteenth as a paid company holiday following protests and calls for equality.
In email to Amazon employees a short time ago, @JeffBezos stops short of making Juneteenth a company holiday but encourages employees to cancel meetings and take advantage of “online learning opportunities” that Amazon will provide. pic.twitter.com/BIGRqv8Wor
— Jason Del Rey (@DelRey) June 17, 2020
Since 94-year-old Opal Lee’s online petition to make Juneteenth a federal holiday has accrued over 1.6 million signatures, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution on June 15, 2021, establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day—a U.S. federal holiday. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden formally signed the bill into law. Prior to becoming a federal holiday, Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday with Virginia and New York following suit. The holiday was at least a day of observance for most states, with the exception of Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.
Since slavery was legal when the Constitution was signed on July 4, 1776, and wasn’t officially abolished until the 13th amendment was ratified in December 1865, almost 90 years later, Juneteenth is considered the official Independence Day of the black community.
We hope this helps get you started on your journey to Juneteenth!