In light of the high volume of police violence against black bodies in the last few years, more and more African- Americans have opted to celebrate Juneteenth instead of July 4, America's independence day. Many Black people have recently started to learn more about it, while Black people in certain states have been celebrating it since its conception. Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, is a federal holiday that commemorates the emancipation of all enslaved African- Americans. Although this occurred on June 19, 1865, it didn't actually become a federal holiday until June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day.
On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. A common misconception is that the Proclamation freed ALL slaves. However, it only applied to states under Confederate control, not slave- holding border states or rebel slave- holders in Union controlled states. Although Texas was a Confederate state, slavers ignored the Proclamation because Texas hadn't experienced many large scale battles and the Union didn't have much of a presence there. In fact, many slavers moved the enslaved to Texas because they figured it was still "safe. On June 19, 1865, Gordon Granger, a Union general, and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform slaves that the Civil War was over and they had been freed two years prior via the Emancipation Proclamation. Although some slavers still withheld this information, many newly freed people rejoiced and celebrated.
On June 19, 1866, freed individuals organized the first Juneteenth Celebration. Formerly enslaved persons and their families celebrated by praying together and enjoying each other's company. Many of them traveled back to Galveston to recognize the day. In 1872, a group of African- American ministers and businessmen purchased 10 acres of land in Houston and created Emancipation Park, a space that was intended for Juneteenth celebrations. Over the next few decades, more and more components were added to the celebrations, such as music, food, games, parades, pageantry, and prayer services. Emancipation Park stands to serve its intended purpose to this very day. In 2020, the city of Galveston dedicated a 5,000 square foot mural entitled "Absolute Equality" over the area where General Granger informed the enslaved masses about their freedom.
Aside from the obvious reasons Juneteenth is important, it's still relevant today because in spite of how far we've come, we still have a long way to go to achieve true equality in the United States. Black people are still being disproportionately assaulted and murdered at the hands of the police, and discriminated against in many other social, physical, and economic ways. While most of the country celebrates America's independence day on July 4, many black people have realized that that day meant absolutely nothing to our ancestors who were still enslaved at the time. And we, their descendants, have a duty to celebrate the day they were made aware of their freedom.