July 4th is widely known as Independence Day in America, a day when we as a country decided to break free from the ties that bound us to Great Britain. But while white Americans enjoyed independence from the British monarchy after the Revolutionary War, it took another 80 years for the American ideals of freedom and liberty to apply to everyone.
This year, Juneteenth will mark 155 years since the last enslaved people in America were emancipated. Juneteenth is an important commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. Many people believe that all enslaved people were freed with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but in reality, it didn’t happen until two years later in 1865. Many people had gone to Texas to get away from the Civil War, and as a result, news of the Emancipation Proclamation was withheld and unenforced. Two months after the Confederacy surrendered, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to finally announce that enslaved African Americans were free. His arrival ensured that the proclamation would be enforced, and since then, June 19th has been widely known as Juneteenth, or Freedom Day. It’s a time for African Americans to celebrate their culture and history with festivities including barbecues and parades.
The last month alone has seen an exponential increase in support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The current protests have brought to wider attention the issues of police brutality and systemic racism, and have also raised awareness for the importance and significance of Juneteenth. Many large companies, including Nike, Best Buy, and Target, have shown solidarity by designating Juneteenth as a company holiday starting this year. Juneteenth was, and still is, a celebration as well as a reminder of history. While slavery has ended, racism and discrimination against Black Americans has not. It’s important to remember the efforts of Black Americans who fought to ensure their freedom and their rights, a fight that continues to this day. Juneteenth is a day to remember their achievements, to celebrate the progress the Black Lives Matter movement has made, and to recognize what still needs to be done.