From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. It is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection to appreciate & understand what generations before had to endure.
In 1980, Texas made Juneteenth an official state holiday. Currently, 46 states and the District of Columbia mark the occasion as a holiday or day of observance. This month, several companies including Twitter, Square, the New York Times, Mastercard, Nike & the NFL, announced they were making Juneteenth a paid holiday. And as of June 15th, Juneteenth is now a federal holiday in the United States.
Why is this year more important than even before? In recent years, a number of Juneteenth commemorations were tied to themes raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. This year, the date comes at a time where the country is coming together after the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans. In cities across the country & the world, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining together to fight against police brutality & systemic racism. Some of our oldest institutions are being examined right now in mainstream discourse. We are seeing the removal of confederate monuments, flags & symbols. In a time of protests, it is hopeful with so many coming together for equal rights & reform, that true change is upon us.