What is Juneteenth?

By Jayla J. (10th grade, from Albany, CA) –

Yesterday was June 19th, 2020. A memorable and incredibly important date for many. However, a lot of people that I know and that I know didn’t understand the significance of it. So here is why June 19th, or Juneteenth, is so important to know about in the United States.

Juneteenth is the annual celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, celebrating June 19th, 1865, when federal troops officially arrived in Texas and ensured the freedom of all the enslaved people. While many think of the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation as “the end of slavery,” this is not entirely true. 3.9 million enslaved Americans were granted human freedom by the Emancipation proclamation, but word did not reach the last group of enslaved Americans until almost 3 years later.

During the Civil War, Texas was not closely monitored without a large influence from Union troops, so many slave owners went to Texas and brought enslaved people with them. Slavery continued in Texas for three more years after the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation. When the Civil War ended in 1865, General Granger’s arrival in Galveston, TX, on June 19th signaled freedom for over 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.

Why is this important today?

Juneteenth is a date of major significance in American history as it represents the ways in which freedom for Black people have been delayed. It is a reminder that “nobody is free until everybody is free” and is a symbol of total freedom from slavery across all states. It commemorates the day where the journey towards true freedom began. It is not an official federal holiday as of yet, however 47 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as either a state holiday or a day of observance. (Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the exceptions).

How is Juneteenth celebrated?

Juneteenth is celebrated by thousands of Americans throughout the nation every year often with a mixture of religious services and storytelling, music, food, parades, and other celebrations of Black culture. In 2019, a celebration was held in Houston’ Emancipation Park.

This year, it is more important than ever to recognize what Juneteenth stands for and its history. We must recognize what we have yet to accomplish in this country, and work together to accomplish that. We must listen, support, and respect our Black communities.

About the Author:

My name is Jayla Johnson, and I’m from Albany, California. In my free time, I play saxophone for my school band and I love spending time with my family. I want to be a writer in the future, and I hope to attend college and major in political science.

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