Juneteenth is one of the oldest American holidays that is celebrated every year on June 19 to mark the official ending of slavery in the United States. This writes the New York Post.
This day got its name from combining the words “June” (june) and end of the number 19 ( teenth). It has long been noted black Americans as a symbol of their long-awaited freedom. But the history of the holiday and how Juneteenth has gained its importance, began 155 years ago in Galveston (TX).
What is the meaning and background Juneteenth
June 19, 1865, Union troops led by General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to announce the news the last remaining supporters of the Confederacy that they lost the Civil war and all slaves must be freed.
“The people of Texas said that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States all slaves are free, — said General Union, the people of Galveston. — This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves. The relationship between them, are still in existence, it becomes the same as between employer and employee”.
Newly freed slaves celebrated freedom “prayer, feast, songs and dances,” and next year, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the first official holiday Juneteenth.
“The importance of Juneteenth is that it is rooted in this long history of struggle for freedom, and then in efforts to maintain this freedom in the face of tremendous repression, which started soon after the liberation,” explained Columbia University Professor David Rosner.
“This meant the true end of the Civil war and beginning of Reconstruction — a time that, as expected, was very happy and encouraging, but became very unhappy as part of the ransom of the South, to move African Americans to imposed slavery,” says Rosner.
While President Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in the “Declaration of exemption” from January 1, 1863, the rebel citadel of the Confederacy are scattered throughout the South, delayed the widespread introduction of this Declaration.
After the reluctant surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Appomattox (VA) to Union General Ulysses S. Grant Granger was finally able to get to Galveston to announce the Declaration of the Lincoln to free the last remaining of the victims of slavery in the United States.
So what is the reason why the news was so long, and why slavery in Galveston lasted more than two and a half years after Lincoln abolished it.
Legend has it that a messenger on horseback with news of freedom was murdered on the way to Texas, while other historians blame the isolated nature of Galveston as a barrier island on the Eastern edge of Texas and their limited access to communications.
But Professor Nolib rooks, PhD, Director of American studies and Professor of African studies at Cornell University, said that the deferred ending of slavery caused only by greed.
“Frankly, the idea that people in this part of Texas had no idea about the end of the war, absolutely ridiculous,’ said Roux. — Were wired services that were the Newspapers, and large plantation owners were very wealthy, and wealthy people had access to information”.
“They were cruel people. At that time the ruling class in the United States, the elite, many of them rich people, who could be illiterate or retarded. They were cruel and inhuman, but not ignorant,” continued the Professor.
At that time, Galveston has issued its own newspaper “the Galveston daily news”, June 3, 1865, two and a half weeks until the arrival of Granger, was reported from New Orleans with a detailed description of the end of the war and the return of the prisoners of the confederates.
However, since then, according to Rooks, Juneteenth is “passed” through the black community, and in 2020, in the midst of the modern civil rights movement after the death of George Floyd, the festival is experiencing a renewal of interest in him.
When Juneteenth became a holiday, and many States and companies have recognized him
Juneteenth is not a Federal holiday, but at the local level, it is recognized by 46 States and the district of Columbia.
The first official Juneteenth celebration was held a year after the release of slaves in Galveston, Texas but it took more than a hundred years to make it a holiday at the state level. In 1980 Texas became the first U.S. state to declare Juneteenth a holiday.
But four States did not recognize Juneteenth: Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
But while most of us just celebrate this day, only a couple of States (outside of Texas) recognize its paid weekends.
The Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam announced plans to provide each employee of the Executive authority paid day off on June 19 and said he will work with the legislature over the adoption of the law that day became a permanent holiday.
Wednesday, June 17, the Governor of new York Andrew Cuomo made a similar statement, by signing a decree recognizing the June 19, paid weekends for civil servants and has said that he will propose a bill to make it a regular occasion.
Now that the protests Black Lives Matter once again draw attention to the plight of black Americans, private companies have begun to recognize Juneteenth paid weekends.
List of companies promising to recognize Juneteenth:
Network Best Buy announced that employees from 2021 Juneteenth will be “official paid holiday in the company.”
General Motors plans to hold 8-minute 46-second moment of silence in honor of Floyd.
Google urged his staff to cancel unnecessary meetings and to “use this day to create space for learning and reflection”.
J. C. Penney told employees that Juneteenth is considered an annual holiday for workers.
JPMorgan Chase plans to close all offices early Chase, at 13:00, in honor of this day.
Lyft announced that June 19 will be considered a holiday, applicable company-wide.
Mastercard announced on June 19 the Day of solidarity and called on workers to “stop and think” about all the remaining work on “the fight against racism and discrimination”.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revealed that 19 Jun recognized holiday, and the NFL offices will be closed on this day.
Nike will make Juneteenth a paid annual weekends.
Postmates announced on 19 June an official holiday of the company.
Spotify will make Juneteenth a paid holiday for all employees.
Target workers who receive the hourly rate, receive time and a half for work on 19 June, and this day will be recognized as output in the company.
Twitter and Square have made Juneteenth a celebration of their companies.
Uber employees will be given a paid day off.
Celebrated as Juneteenth
Texans celebrated Juneteenth, beginning in 1866, activities oriented towards the community. For example, they organized parades, culinary meetings, prayer fees, historical and cultural readings and musical performances. Over time, communities developed their own traditions.
In 1872, black Texans, headed by Baptist Minister and former slave of the Reverend Jack Yates collected $1000 to purchase 10 acres of land in Houston and called it a Park release, according to the Department of parks and recreation of Houston.
Today, said rooks, Juneteenth remains a day of festive celebrations.
“It is a holiday filled with joy and entertainment. People cook delicious food and stuff,” said rooks.
“You’ll see people with crowns on the head — it’s miss Juneteenth, voted for them and crowned them. The people, the atmosphere similar to a carnival: party, street vendors — this is a very big holiday,” he explained.
Amid nationwide demonstrations against police brutality rooks expects the celebration in 2020 will be marked by even more protests and a new attention to the work that remains to be done to advance the rights of blacks.
“The United States has really faced what that meant before, and what it continues to mean, because a large part of the US economy has long rested on the enslavement of the people,” said rooks.