Welcome to June in which we celebrate Juneteenth, which was designated as a federal holiday in 2021 when the 46th president signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, thanks to the efforts of Ms. Lula Briggs Gallow, Ms. Opal Lee, and many others. Today, I want to talk to you about the importance of Juneteenth and the 4th of July holidays in society and in the workplace. First, let's jump ahead to the 4th of July to provide context for Juneteenth.
As you know, the 4th of July holiday celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and signifies the birth of American independence. This day is noteworthy as it marks the day that thirteen American colonies declared themselves a new nation, separate from Great Britain. It is a day of pride for Americans and symbolizes the country's fight for freedom and liberty.
However, while the 4th of July held great importance for the founding fathers, it does not hold the same significance for all Americans. For enslaved people, the 4th of July was not a day of celebration. Instead, it was a reminder of their lack of freedom and the hypocrisy of a nation that professed liberty and justice for all, yet denied those rights to millions of enslaved people who were laying the economic foundations of this country. This is where Juneteenth comes in.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is celebrated on June 19th and marks the day in 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that ALL enslaved people were now free. This announcement came two and a half years AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, and it took the end of the Civil War and the enforcement of the Proclamation to finally free approximately 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.
Juneteenth is an important American holiday because it represents a step towards the more just and equal society that was proclaimed on July 4th, yet was exclusive of African Americans. Juneteenth is a day for African Americans to celebrate their heritage and culture, and for all Americans to acknowledge the struggle for equality and the ongoing pursuit of liberty and justice for all – liberty to live free without fear for one’s life based on the color one’s skin, and justice for all those who are living while Black and sometimes die because of it.