Juneteenth is a holiday that many people are unaware of, and others choose to ignore, or worse, appropriate for their own racist needs.
For those who still aren’t sure what this nationally recognized holiday is all about, here is some information about the history of Juneteenth.
“Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has been celebrated by African-Americans since the late 1800s.
On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.
The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”
“In 1980, Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth as a holiday, though the recognition is largely symbolic. Since then, at least 45 states and the District of Columbia have moved to officially recognize the day. Last October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, both Democrats, signed into law legislation declaring Juneteenth holidays in their respective states. Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, also a Democrat, declared Juneteenth a state holiday starting in 2022, and legislators in Illinois approved a bill that would make it a paid day off for all state employees and a school holiday.
Amid last year’s unrest, many businesses moved toward marking it as a company holiday, giving many employees a paid day off. Twitter and Square, a mobile payment company, along with the N.F.L., Best Buy, Nike and Target all recognized Juneteenth last year.”
“Modern observance is primarily in local celebrations. Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing“, and reading of works by noted African-American writers, such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Celebrations include rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, and Miss Juneteenth contests. The Mascogos, descendants of Black Seminoles, who escaped from U.S. slavery in 1852 and settled in Coahuila, Mexico, also celebrate Juneteenth.
The holiday is considered the “longest-running African-American holiday” and has been called “America’s second Independence Day”. Juneteenth is usually celebrated on the third Saturday in June. Historian Mitch Kachun considers that celebrations of the end of slavery have three goals: “to celebrate, to educate, and to agitate”. Early celebrations consisted of baseball, fishing, and rodeos. African Americans were often prohibited from using public facilities for their celebrations, so they were often held at churches or near water. Celebrations were also characterized by elaborate large meals and people wearing their best clothing.
Observance today is primarily in local celebrations. In many places, Juneteenth has become a multicultural holiday. Traditions include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing“, and reading of works by noted African-American writers, such as Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou. Celebrations include picnics, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, park parties, historical reenactments, blues festivals, and Miss Juneteenth contests. Strawberry soda is a traditional drink associated with the celebration.”
Racist White Supremacists objected to a holiday that didn’t make them number one, so one place in North Carolina decided to appropriate the holiday so that they could be front and center.
“”NC Plantation Cancels Juneteenth Event Where ‘Massa’ Would Have Waxed Poetic About the Confederacy
The mayor of Charlotte and other town and county officials have spoken out against the ill-conceived event.
The Historic Latta Plantation in Huntersville, N.C., recently advertised a Juneteenth event that aimed to tell the stories of “white refugees,” Confederate soldiers who were sad about losing the Civil War and freed slaves living “high on the hog”—all from the perspective of an unemployed slave master.
The event billing is sympathetic to those who owned slaves in the aftermath of emancipation, and inaccurately minimizes an unnamed slaveowner to an “overseer,” referring to him as “massa.” The post on Latta Plantation’s site also refers to “freedmen” but inexplicably omits that Black people were enslaved in the United States for nearly 250 years. Instead, the museum’s site refers to slaves as “former bondsmen.”
Fortunately, it didn’t fly with others.
As a white woman born and raised in the north, I’ve never understood disliking, or even worse, hating people who were not just like you. This is true of hatred of people of color like those who are Black and Asian or those who live with a sexual orientation that they disagree with.
It pretty much was an all-white school when I was in high school, and Seattle was just starting to integrate mixed races through forced busing, which no one appreciated. Simply because it was forced. But when my school had its first black student, he was welcomed with open arms. I’m sure some didn’t like him because he was black, but I don’t think it was the majority. By the time I graduated and started working, I was exposed to a larger diversity of people of color and sexual orientation. I was able to see that there was more that we had in common than we didn’t. I’ve also learned that people who hate do so due to fear and lack of experience and education. That’s easy enough to fix, but it will take some time.
I can’t pretend to understand what black citizens have had to deal with for the past 250 years. But I hope to learn more about the contributions made by so many people of color. And to appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made to get the same rights that people of white European ancestry have enjoyed.