Why Celebrate Juneteenth?

I was educated in Chicago, Illinois and my family never celebrated Juneteenth, because we never heard of it. When I moved to California people here were celebrating this day and I did not know why. I wonder how many others do not know the history behind the celebration.

June 19th, shortened to "Juneteenth" among African Americans, has become the African-American add-on to July 4th, our nation’s Independence Day. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated day to recognize the ending of slavery in the United States. Its growing popularity signifies a truthful acknowledge of a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today.[i]

On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued an Executive Order called the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation announced, "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."

The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal Border States. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. The freedom it promised depended upon Union military victories.[ii]

On June 19, 1865, the Union Army under the command of General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas; to inform the citizens the Civil War ended two months earlier. Granger read the General read Order Number 3,

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere”.

The state of Texas made Juneteenth an official holiday on January 1, 1980, and became the first state to grant Juneteenth government recognition. Forty-one states have since issued proclamations recognizing the holiday, but the Lone Star State grants it full state holiday status, a day when government employees have the day off. Juneteenth is promoted as a commemoration of African-American freedom.[iii]

Last year, the United States Senate passed a resolution recognizing Juneteenth as “Juneteenth Independence Day” in America.

June 14, 2014

U.S. Senate Declares the '19th of June'

as "Juneteenth Independence Day" in America

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) designates June 19, 2014, as 'Juneteenth Independence Day';

(2) recognizes the historical significance of 'Juneteenth Independence Day' to the United States;

(3) supports the continued nationwide celebration of 'Juneteenth Independence Day' to provide an opportunity for the people of the United States to learn more about the past and to better understand the experiences that have shaped the United States; and

(4) recognizes that the observance of the end of slavery is a part of the history and heritage of the United States.

It took 148 years, 10 months, and 26 days for the United States government to formally recognize the end of slavery. Now we need to encourage President Obama to support the establishment of Juneteenth as a National Day of Observance. Orders signed by the President get attention nationally and internationally. Sign this online petition to ask your Senators, Member of Congress, and the President to support the establishment of a National Day of Reconciliation and Healing from the Legacy of Enslavement during the annual observance of Juneteenth Independence Day and request the formation of a National Juneteenth Commission.