One of our most important national holidays is today, and you’ve never even heard of it
Literally as important as Independence Day
by Ari Bines
Today's a holiday — and a pretty fucking major one. You won't see brands trying to push themed specials, you won't see celebrities tweeting about it to their fans, and you definitely won't see it in any mainstream history book.
It's Juneteenth today, and it's huge. Thanks to your half-assed history lessons, you might not know that today is an independence day on-par with the Fourth of July. It matters to you (a Black person reading this, hi!) or your Black friends (a non-Black person who gives a damn about racial issues reading this, hi!).
Here's everything you need to know about the important, criminally underrated holiday:
Juneteenth is Freedom Day!
Juneteenth is a portmanteau of "June" and "nineteenth" so I'm sure you're not at all surprised to know that it falls on (say it with me) June 19. More than 150 years ago today, news of slavery's abolition reached Texas, and spread throughout the Confederacy. Though slavery was technically abolished 2.5 years earlier with the Emancipation Proclamation, news didn't make it down south for a while. Some say it was because the messenger was killed on his way to make the declaration, some say it was deliberately withheld. White people holding back information to benefit themselves?! Why, I never! In any case, Juneteenth is a huge deal.
Regretfully, it isn't a national holiday, but is described as state holiday or special day of observance in 45 of the 50 states — and surprisingly, the holdouts are not the states you'd think.
The pen used by Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 @BeineckeLibrary “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”-1858 #Juneteenth2018 pic.twitter.com/SBToz1ALp7
— Brent Colburn (@cbrentcolburn) June 19, 2018
If you don't already care, you really should
For a lot of people, Juneteenth is just another scorching hot day but to African-Americans, Juneteenth is our Independence Day. But there wasn't really a lot to celebrate at the time of gaining freedom.
Happy #Juneteenth2018 ! My family always celebrated, especially w/ half of them being in Texas. On this day 150 years ago, Union Gen. Gordon Granger & 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the emancipation of slaves- 2.5 years after emancipation proclamation pic.twitter.com/J89xQ0Wp4P
— Alexis Rogers (@AlexisWLWT) June 19, 2018
Although legal abolition was made aware to southern states, of course it didn't inherently free all slaves. Many slaveowners (particularly in Texas) didn't take the news lightly. There was a shit ton of defiance to the proclamation, resulting in slavemasters having to be physically forced the let go of their "former assets." They didn't really take to the order to surrender to the government's plan for "an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property."
We give thanks to Gen. Gordon Granger who brought over 2,000 troops to Texas to enforce the proclamation — or in other words, put they asses in check.
And you better believe it got violent…quick
Once the news of Black freedom broke, the former slaveowners participated in violent acts against newly freed Blacks in response to the declaration. Murder, lynching and other forms of assault continued despite the abolishment. And we all know what happened with the subsequently-enacted Jim Crow laws.
One freed slave account of their experience in an essay by historian Elizabeth Hayes Turner's described a score of Blacks hanging from trees immediately after the announcement. Even as freedpeople tried to escape their former owners, they were caught and shot dead on sight.
Now, we celebrate! WELL, to an extent
It wasn't until a year later in 1866 that people began publicly celebrating the Black holiday, dodging fear of angering whites. Today, people still reread the Emancipation Proclamation, sing, recite poems by Maya Angelou and other Black artists, and revel in the reclamation of our time as people, not property.
Happy #Juneteenth2018 everyone!!! We’ve got soooooo much more work to do, and when I saw we, I mean sane white people.
— Dennis Rodman’s Oil-free Moisturizer (@chrisdameanor19) June 19, 2018
Even though there's not a lot to be said about Juneteenth in the mainstream newsfeed, it's a time you should be aware of. It's difficult to give praise to a holiday about freedom when most of us are still facing discrimination and racism more 153 years of being let go. But still, a day off to celebrate would be pretty damn nice.
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