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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

The history and importance behind Juneteenth

Photo by Unsplash. Black power of the celebration of Juneteenth, now a national Holiday.

By Madison Lira

A day that just became a federally recognized holiday just one year ago, Juneteenth is an annual observance of the ending of slavery within the United States. President Joe Biden had signed legislation just last year making Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday, making the commemoration the first holiday to be approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, est. 1983.  

Yet, even with Juneteenth being a federally recognized observance now, what is the history behind this day and its importance to the black community in the United States?

American abolitionist Frederick Douglas famously asked, “What to a slave is the Fourth of July?” Leading to the new federally recognized celebration of Juneteenth, a play of words on the day it is about, June 19, 1865. However, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, which declared all enslaved people living within rebel states free. Many enslaved people would be freed at the end of the Civil War, as those living within the deep south were not freed immediately after the proclamation was issued.

This is why on June 19, 1865, the proclamation would formerly be enforced by the Union Army and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger formally freed the enslaved people still being held in Galveston, Texas. Even after this, however, many slaveholders refused to give up; according to NPR, “It was a perilous time for Black people, and some former slaves who were freed or attempted to get free were attacked and killed.” The proclamation also freed enslaved people in rebelling states, not other states outside the rebels who permitted slavery as a practice. 

It wasn’t until the constitution was ratified during the reconstruction era, adding the 13, 14, and 15 amendments, that all enslaved people across the United States would be freed and granted citizenship. It would, however, still be a long fight to be given the same freedoms as white Americans for the formerly enslaved people and their descendants, even now in 2022.

To this day, many Black Americans across the country help celebrate this holiday before congress and the president designated it a national holiday. In 1872, black community leaders in Houston had gathered $1,000 to purchase land to host Juneteenth celebrations and exercise their new rights to property ownership, according to Emancipation Park Conservatory. An article from The New York Times discussed that this past Juneteenth, Galveston, Texas celebrated the holiday with a banquet, poetry festival, parade, and picnic. 

Juneteenth is an essential holiday to this day. Not only does it commemorate those enslaved during some of the more sinister times of American history. It also highlights their hope and endurance, inspiring descendants today. There was rejuvenated interest on the day after the 2020 nationwide protests that followed the police killings of Black Americans of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

It is an essential day for Black Americans to look back on the fight their ancestors had fought for their freedoms and the long way we still have to go to fight these injustices. 

CSU Pueblo’s BSU President, Shaylan Wilson, had admitted that until a Juneteenth episode of the hit tv-show “Black-ish,” which had aired in 2017, she had not heard of the holiday. After that episode, she conducted her research on it. Wilson had this to say about the holiday, “They fought for our freedom, and if it weren’t for them, I would not be eating in the same restaurants as my friends or being in the same classrooms. I am proud and honored to be of African descent, and I am proud of my ancestors for being so strong to keep fighting for our rights to be treated as human beings.” 

The holiday is inspiring for Black Americans living in the country, even with the prejudice, racism, and police brutality still occurring today. Juneteenth shows why Black Americans are still fighting for equality to this day and why skin color should not be the cause of the hatred they face.

“That is why we have culturally empowering groups such as the Black Student Union at Colorado State University Pueblo, to ensure the history that our ancestors experienced is told the right way, and we keep spreading love and unity among our people,” said Wilson.

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