Every June 19 in the United States, the Juneteenth (a pun on June, June in English, and nineteenth, 19), also called Emancipation Day, or Freedom Day, is celebrated to commemorate the end of slavery. . Now, 155 years later, the black population continues to demand, across the country and beyond its borders, equality and racial justice in the face of new forms of slavery, lynching, systematic racism, criminal reform and police brutality.
A fight always marked in the national debate and that today, more than ever, is latent as a consequence of the massive protests of the Black Lives Matter platform in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia mark June 19 as a state holiday, with Texas being the first state to declare it a holiday in 1980.
In addition, all eyes are on this celebration due to the controversial decision of President Donald Trump to call a demonstration in Tulsa, (Oklahoma), the city that was the scene of the historic massacre of the African American population in the Greenwood district, known as “Black Wall Street”, in which at least 300 people were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in 1921. Despite the fact that Trump has rectified and changed the date of the march, the black population, mainly, considers him a absolutely deliberate act.
What is the historical importance of this day?
In 1863, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that more than three million slaves living in the Confederate states were free. However, it would be more than two years before this order became effective for African-Americans belonging to the State of Texas. It was not until Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, that state residents finally learned that slavery had been abolished.
“The people of Texas are informed that, according to a proclamation of the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This implies an absolute equality of personal rights and property rights between former masters and slaves, and the connection existing so far between them becomes that of the employer and the contracted work. Freedmen are advised to remain silent in their current homes and to work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in inactivity neither there nor anywhere else. “—General Orders, Number 3; Texas District Headquarters, Galveston, June 19, 1865.
The formal end of slavery marked the beginning of a decade of Reconstruction, which sought the continued emancipation of black Americans and the inclusion of secessionist states in the United States amid white supremacist paramilitary terror and a devastated post-war economy.
The following year, on June 19, the first official celebrations took place in Texas, characterized by their originality and in which spiritual prayers and songs stood out. Also as a symbol of freedom, people wore new clothes and also included educational events, family gatherings, music, picnics and dances to celebrate their cultural heritage.
Since then, it is one of the most emotional festivities for the African-American community and celebrated mostly in the southern states, which marks a turning point in the fight for true freedom. An especially notable sentiment in 2020 as the United States navigates a new era of racial unrest. Too often, American history portrays African Americans as passive participants in their own history, hoping to be freed from the fight. But the scandal and current protests sparked by continued race-related killings and other racial and economic injustices are as much a part of African-American history as they were a hundred years ago and therefore, given their importance, they demand that the party be nationally recognized.