Juneteenth: Commemorating Emancipation and Honoring Heritage

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19 each year, marks the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. Officially a federal holiday in the U.S. since 2021, the day commemorates the arrival of a Union general in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom. Celebrations include parades, marches, and cultural events, while also serving as a day to reflect on racial inequities and the legacy of slavery.

Reuters | Updated: 12-06-2024 17:27 IST | Created: 12-06-2024 17:27 IST
Juneteenth: Commemorating Emancipation and Honoring Heritage
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Juneteenth, a day that marks the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans, is always observed on June 19 each year. It became a U.S. federal holiday in 2021, following the signing of a bill by President Joe Biden. Long a regional holiday in the South, Juneteenth rose in prominence across the country following 2020 protests over the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other African Americans.

WHEN IS JUNETEENTH? Juneteenth, a combination of the words June and 19th, is also known as Emancipation Day. It commemorates the day in 1865 - after the Confederate states surrendered to end the Civil War - when a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform a group of enslaved African Americans of their freedom under President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

Texas officially declared Juneteenth a holiday in 1980. At least 28 states and the District of Columbia now legally recognize Juneteenth as state holidays and give state workers a paid day off. Although in part a celebration, the day is also observed solemnly to honor those who suffered as a result of slavery in the 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in the colonies that would eventually become the United States.

WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT ABOUT JUNETEENTH THIS YEAR? Now in its fourth year as a federal holiday, all U.S. government employees and any private business that participates have the day off from work.

Not all state governments recognize the holiday, however, meaning state employees in those states are expected to work. To enshrine Juneteenth in any state, its legislature would have to pass bills to make it a permanent holiday. In 2023, Connecticut, Minnesota, Nevada and Tennessee made Juneteenth a permanent public holiday for the first time, according to the Pew Research Center.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey authorized Juneteenth this year to be a state holiday by decree, after efforts by state lawmakers to pass legislation to make it a permanent state holiday. Race remains a sensitive issue in the United States, four years after tensions flared over the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of police. Floyd's killing sparked a global protest movement that led to calls for sweeping criminal justice reform and attention to other racial inequities.

In Florida and other states, some conservatives are trying to change the way Black history is taught in public schools, another sign of the deep tensions that still surround race in the United States, which imposed a draconian system of racial segregation on Black Americans following emancipation. Since Juneteenth 2023, the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court ruled that universities can no longer consider race as a factor in deciding on student admissions. The decision ended affirmative action programs that have been used by many U.S. schools to increase their numbers of Black, Hispanic and other students from underrepresented communities.

HOW ARE PEOPLE MARKING JUNETEENTH? Americans are marking the 159th anniversary of emancipation with festive meals, music and gatherings. Traditionally, celebrations have included parades and marches, many of which were held on Sunday.

People are also celebrating the holiday by organizing for civil rights, reading books about African American heritage and history, attending festivals and musical performances, and dining at Black-owned restaurants. Meanwhile, other events will strike a more somber tone, with organizers using the day to draw attention to today's racial inequities they say stem from the legacy of slavery and structural racism.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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