Juneteenth – Freedom Day

By FPL_AssataS

As people gather across the country for parades, festivals, and reunions on Juneteenth, a certain vibration is in the air. Throughout the spirit of the African American community, expressions of joy that once prompted brutal punishments issued by public servants and private citizens alike, now permeate the atmosphere as a reminder of civil rights victories, and how much there remains to advocate for in the fight to gain and retain equal rights. 

Legal freedom came late for African Americans enslaved in Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, it took an additional two and a half years for the news to arrive in Galveston, Texas on June 19th following the end of the Civil War. Many Texas slaveholders continued to practice slavery illegally, and as with other southern states, antagonistic laws were enacted in countless attempts to prevent public spaces and job markets from being ‘contaminated’ by the presence of African Americans. Still, the end of legal slavery gave way to an immense wave of sociopolitical action to acquire equal rights. June 19th became popularly known as Juneteenth, and in 1979 Texas became the first state to recognize it as an official holiday. Many also began referring to Juneteenth as Jubilee Day or Freedom Day.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, increased attention on police brutality against African Americans invigorated hundreds of thousands of people to gather in protest across the country, and this shined a new light on the importance of commemorating Juneteenth. In 2021, President Joe Biden officially designated Juneteenth as a Federal holiday. The day marks not only a time to celebrate, but also a reminder that the fight to obtain equal rights for African Americans persists.