Updated 19th of June 2021.
The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which establishes a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the US, has recently been signed by the POTUS and is officially a federal holiday.
It's also the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr Day was established in 1983.
We all know about Independence Day in the U.S. Let’s spread the word about another incredibly significant day: Juneteenth.
1. What is Juneteenth?
The holiday gets its name from June 19, 1865. That’s the day the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that all African-American slaves in the state were free in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The state was the last in the Confederacy to receive word that the Civil War was over and that slavery had been abolished and the last where the federal Army established its authority.
Most freed-people weren’t exactly interested in staying with their slavers. What came after, became known as “the scatter”, when crowds of freedpeople left the state to find other family members or friendlier accommodation in northern regions.
FREEDOM CREATED OTHER PROBLEMS
After the announcement, Texas slave owners were not too anxious to let go of what the deemed to be their property. So when freed-people tried to leave, many of them were killed, beaten or lynched.
It took over 2 years for the June 19 announcement to come. Hundreds of thousands of slaves were already free - yet, none of them knew it and no one was in a rush to share this information with them.
2. What’s been its significance?
As early as 1866, freed African Americans in Texas held a celebration on the date to commemorate the end of slavery. As Black families emigrated from the southern U.S. after the Great Depression, observance spread throughout the country. In 1968, shortly after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, his Poor People’s Campaign held a Juneteenth Solidarity Day, giving the holiday a new prominence in the civil rights movement.
3. What is different this year?
Slavery's end didn't kill racism, and in the years after so-called Jim Crow laws were created to separate black people from white society while limiting their civil rights. The legacy of those racist laws is still being dismantled.
George Floyd Jr., Breonna Taylor, and other African-Americans at the hands of police have led to anti-racism protests last year - these events are a reminder that this date has never been more important than it is now.
As mentioned above, Juneteenth (signed in 2021) is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr Day was established in 1983.