What is Juneteenth?
A Celebration of Black Freedom
Friday, June 19, marked the 2020 version of Juneteenth.
And though you may have seen the term all over your social media and in the news, it can still represent a relatively new concept to some.
In short, Juneteenth is an annual celebration meant to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.
And while the holiday has been celebrated amongst the black population since the 1800s, this year’s Juneteenth is garnering more attention than ever before, given the racial unrest that exists in today’s America after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and now, Rayshard Brooks and others.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862, and came into effect on Jan. 1, 1863. Contrary to popular belief, it did not free slaves entirely. It only freed the slaves in rebellious states during the American Civil War, while loyal border states were allowed to continue the practice of slavery.
However, it was a monumental step towards the end of traditional slavery, because on June 19, 1865, a few months after the Civil War had ended, black slaves were notified of their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Juneteenth holiday – also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day – was born, and the term ‘Juneteenth’ is a simple combination of the words ‘June’ and ‘nineteenth.’
As of today, Juneteenth is not a nationwide holiday, but it is making strides towards becoming one, as outlined by The New York Times.
In 1980, Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth as a holiday, though the recognition is largely symbolic. Since then, 45 other states and the District of Columbia have moved to officially recognize the day. In 2019, New Hampshire became the latest state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday. On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia said he would propose legislation to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday and on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York declared the anniversary a holiday for state employees.
And in recent weeks, several major companies have designated Juneteenth a companywide holiday, including the National Football League, Target, Twitter, Nike, Best Buy and Capital One.