Embodied by the flag at the right, Juneteenth is a special day in the history of our nation. It's also a special day in the history of African Americans. It symbolizes the day in which African slaves were liberated from the oppressive practice known as slavery. However, the day isn't recognized by every state as a holiday and much work needs to be done. Learn more about the day and what needs to be done by clicking read more.
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What is Juneteenth Exactly?
On this day, June 19, in 1865, soldiers from the Union North led by Major Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Texas to inform individuals that the Civil War had officially ended and that the slaves were officially free. Although this moment occurred in 1865, Abraham Lincoln had originally delivered his Emancipation Proclamation Speech in early 1863 to free the slaves. However, given that the Civil War was still ongoing, states in the south saw no need to obey the orders; when the North finally won the war, it was able to force these orders.
Juneteenth integrates two words: June and Ninteenth.
Due to its cultural importance, 47 states as well as the District of Columbia have decreed the day to be a state holiday or special day of observance. It was first observed as a state holiday in Texas. It has subsequently been declared a day of paid holiday by only a select few of states, including Texas, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania.
What does the Flag Symbolize?
1. The star symbolizes the American Nation but concurrently, Texas, the state in which Major Granger arrived to spread the message that slavery was abolished.
2. The bursting nova represents a new beginning for African-Americans throughout the United States.
3. The arc that separates the red and blue represents a new horizon, or future opportunities.
4. The color choices of red, white, and blue integrate sentiment that African-Americans are rightfully American people with rights.
Why is it relevant in policy right now?
In the current socio-economic climate and recent events, the push to make Juneteenth a national holiday is why the concept and cultural significance has entered Congress. In fact, today, in Washington DC, various senators proposed Juneteenth to be declared a national holiday and to subsequently assist in the celebrations and appropriate ceremonies.
The bill was proposed by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Booker, Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is a cosponsor.
What can you do?
1. LEARN MORE: Prior to taking action, there are multiple ways to support the African-American community and learn more about its heritage. These ways include watching relevant movies/documentaries that inform, reading relevant books, purchasing food/goods from Black-owned stores, donating to Black-owned organizations, or listening to podcasts/playlists.
2. TAKE ACTION: Referring to the image below, 3 states do not recognize it as a holiday: North Dakota, South Dakota, and Hawaii. Furthermore, the nation is currently undergoing consideration of the day as a national holiday. To reaffirm your support for the day, we urge you to write a letter to your representatives at the state level, and a letter to your representatives at the national level.
1. Gore, L. (2020, June 19). What is Juneteenth? Why is it called Juneteenth? How to celebrate, history, facts. Retrieved June 19, 2020, from https://www.al.com/news/2020/06/what-is-juneteenth-why-is-it-called-juneteenth-how-to-celebrate-history-facts.html
2. Kaur, H. (2020, June 19). The Juneteenth flag is full of symbols. Here's what they mean. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/19/us/freedom-day-juneteenth-flag-meaning-trnd/index.html
3. Robbins, L. (2020, June 19). These states now recognize Juneteenth, but what are their other holidays? Retrieved June 19, 2020, from https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/nation-world/juneteenth-us-states-official-holidays/507-aa8e98a6-8e01-4f39-b3b5-632d3bf8c83b
4. Shabad, R. (2020, June 19). Senators propose bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Retrieved June 19, 2020, from https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-democrats-introduce-bill-make-juneteenth-federal-holiday-n1231550
The Policy Initiatives Institute is a nonpartisan student-led organization focused on educating and enriching the lives of the public.
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