Juneteenth should be a national holiday.
Several Senators proposed just that this Friday.
In such a divisive and painful time, in which some African-Americans have been the victims of awful tragedies, it deserves a place of honor and recognition.
It’s long overdue.
In case you don’t know, Juneteenth is:
“…the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation- which had become official January 1, 1863.”
Here’s a little background: The Proclamation “changed the legal status under federal law of more than 3.5 million enslaved African-Americans in the secessionist Confederate states from slave to free.”
It solely applied to the Confederacy and was difficult to enforce as well, you know, the Civil War was going on. After the Confederacy surrendered, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in December 1865, which “abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime.”
Juneteenth was a historic step in African-Americans’ struggle for racial equality. Unfortunately, it was not the end, but rather the beginning of a more than century long fight. We must honor, recognize and learn from it.
Making Juneteenth a national holiday is not enough. Much like the Civil rights movement before it, Juneteenth needs to become part of K-12 and university curriculum in the United States.
People need to know about it!
Right now, the date shows that isn’t the case.
According to a Harris Poll conducted from June 13th to 15th, 22% of respondents were “very aware”, 30% were “somewhat aware”, 15% were “not very aware” and 33% were “not at all aware” of June 19th’s significance.
Those are not good numbers. A third of respondents had no idea the date even existed!
I must confess I didn’t know much about the holiday before the past few weeks-and I’m a history buff, majoring in it in college!
Perhaps I had a brief lesson about Juneteenth in high school, though it wasn’t substantial.
How can Americans progress towards racial equality when too many citizens are ignorant of the long, painful journey of African-Americans, as well as other groups?
There are a host of issues facing minority communities right now- police reform, instances of police brutality, poverty and the list goes on and on.
Sensible people can disagree on the policy methods needed to solve those problems.
But regardless of your policy ideas, Juneteenth and the fight to end slavery need to be a federal holiday and taught extensively, on the scale of the Civil Rights Movement, in all levels of the educational system.
That would be a first step towards racial equality.