There's been so much talk of Juneteenth. What is it? Why is it important? Why is it even a holiday? In order to answer any of these questions, we have to first understand the historical context of the holiday, which is celebrated by many across the nation.
Slavery of African peoples began in the 1400s and within a few decades the capture, selling, and enslavement of black bodies became the most profitable business. Just two-hundred years later, the slave trade expanded to Britain's American colonies in 1619.
Fast forward another two hundred years and then some.
The Civil War broke out in 1861 primarily over the disagreement over the morality and justification of slavery. This war was bloody and slaves were not freed until the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, two years after the start of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation changed the legal status of over 3.5 million enslaved Africans to that of free peoples.
The rest of the Civil War was spent bringing unity to the United States and freeing emancipated slaves along the way. However in Texas, a state isolated and on the border of American land at the time, slaves were cognizant of their newfound freedoms. Deceit and neglect allowed for another two years of, now through executive order illegal, slavery to continue on American soil due to a lack of enforcement and validation of federal law in the state.
In other words, black people across the U.S. were freed from slavery and able to have a choice, no matter how small, in how they wanted to live. Black people, though second class citizens with no voting rights, little access to education, money, jobs, land, or property were legally recognized as human beings with enough mental complexity to no longer be seen as property. This news was not shared with many Texas slaves.
It wasn't until Union General Gordon Granger read the executive order in Galveston, Texas that each and every slave in the United States was free. That took place on June 19, 1865 - two years after they were supposed to have been legally freed.
In the United States, slavery and its ties to the present-day can quickly become a controversial topic. But, history is concrete.
Juneteenth, Cel-Liberation Day, Freedom Day, or whatever you wish to call it is the first day that every person living in the United States had an ounce of American freedom. June 19, 1865 was the first day that the Liberty Bell rang a bit of truth in the words "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The U.S. Constitution clearly states that these rights are unalienable. By forgoing these rights to any individual is a direct infringement on their freedom and an implicit threat on our own. We as children of God and voices for justice are remiss if we stand by and watch the rights of our brothers and sisters be stripped before our eyes.
Who allowed and contributed to the enslavement and forced migration of over 12.5 million people?
Who allowed a price to be put on top of another human's head?
Who allowed slavery to continue, illegally, for another two years in the U.S.?
Who allowed bias, prejudice, and racism to create the Black Codes, Jim Crow, and other segregationist laws aimed at limiting black freedom?
Who allowed U.S. citizens to be neglected their right to vote for another 100 years until the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
What are we allowing today?
June 19, 2020
- 401 years since U.S. slavery began
- 233 years since the three-fifths compromise in the U.S. Constitution
- 212 years since the end of the U.S. slave trade
- 157 years after the Emancipation Proclamation
- 155 years after the emancipation of all slaves: Juneeteenth
- 155 years since the Black Codes were enacted
- 143 years since Jim Crow laws were enforced
- 66 years since the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement
- 66 years since Brown v. Board of Education (desegregation of schools)
- 56 years since the 14th amendment (Civil Rights Act of 1964)
- 52 years since 14th amendment expansion: Fair Housing