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It’s official: Juneteenth is a national holiday

President Biden signs into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

Today Pres. Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth, June 19, an official federal holiday. The bill arose from the fact that although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, it was not until Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger reached Galveston on June 19, 1865, that Texas slaves were finally freed. Blacks have celebrated the day every year since.

That much I’ve long understood. What puzzled me today was the title of the bill and the name it specifies for the new holiday: Juneteenth National Independence Day. What national independence? Whose? What does it have to do with Independence Day, the Fourth of July?

I finally found the explanation in an AP Explainer:

“In 1776 the country was freed from the British, but the people were not all free,” Dee Evans, national director of communications of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, said in 2019. “June 19, 1865, was actually when the people and the entire country was actually free.”

Although I understand the intent, I take issue with the language. The United States weren’t exactly “freed” by the British. We declared, fought for, and won our independence from Britain and we celebrate that on July 4, Independence Day. The Juneteenth celebration has always been about freedom, emancipation, or liberation from slavery — not independence from Britain. At least that’s been my understanding.

Anyway, the day certainly deserves this national recognition and celebration, apart from and not to be confused with the Fourth of July. I’m hopeful it will continue to be celebrated as simply Juneteenth, the historic national holiday with the unique name.

10 Comments »

  1. Being from TX, we’ve always celebrated Juneteenth big time. A bit amusing that people want to make a state holiday a national one – oh, I guess it’s like Cinco de mayo (which few in Mexico actually celebrate. Whatever, anything that gets people together is fine (I am curious now what other states have significant worthy state holidays, too.)
    (Just FYI to a few who mumble about “TWO years later? Two years?”…uh, there was a little war going on, the proclamation had no standing until end of war, and even then “mail” delivery was turtle slow.)
    I agree with you about the issue with the language. And I would prefer it jut be Juneteenth – the traditional day’s name which says it all – to those here anyway.
    Oh, for those who like history, may find this interesting, too. It is on topic. (and all sorts of fascinating reads there, too)
    https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/blacks-in-colonial-spanish-texas
    Party on!

    • Both Cinco de Mayo and, to a lesser degree, Juneteenth are celebrated in Colorado but neither is an official state holiday as far as I know. Juneteenth, however, deserves the national recognition it got today.

      • Less complex, but just as fascinating. The Wild West – west of the Mississippi: much more than meets the eye? History. Why isn’t that everyone’s favorite subject….it’s accumulated stories of real people – must be in the delivery system.
        Have a great (although probably hot) weekend. It looks like one of those summers – like 1900 and 1912 when the heat records were set here. Whew! (and in all those heavy clothes!)

        • Gotta be the delivery system. History was awful in school, fascinating now.
          We’ve had three days in a row of 100˚. Broke some kind of record. Just hope the whole summer isn’t like this, but I worry …

          • Rarely done, but not isolating subject content into different classrooms/between bells – actually teaching/using/connecting information across the curriculum is much more efficient: wind history, geography in and among art, music, science, Language arts/litrerature (with mechanics taught in conjunction with essays about current topic, research papers, short answer questions – even math can be slipped in. Those experiences actually stick. Long long ago when I first started out and taught to get money to travel, kids often said “Wait. This is supposed to be English class, we are doing all this other stuff, too” to which I would respond, Yep, it’s all one. Can’t get the whole picture if you don’t have all the pieces. Humanities. You’ll never understand it if not connected.” We had a great time…the worst kids in the school…who ended up beating the sock off all the others on state exams….coincidence? Undercover gurerilla instruction. I should write a book HAHA
            Did you as a kid ever have a dish pan of ice/frozen water in a bottle to put your feet on in summer? Old farm ways….we survived it – maybe better for it? HAHA

        • You should write that book. That approach makes a lot of sense to me.

          We stayed cool by playing in the sprinkler or going to the pool. At night we relied on damp washcloths and an oscillating fan in the middle of the room. Yes, that was in the days before air conditioning. (Can’t believe I’m that old! Pre air conditioning!)

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