The civil rights movement is one of the most significant periods in American History. The end of this extremely long battle by Black Americans to gain equal rights under the law began with the Civil War, which officially abolished slavery a century earlier. However, some rebel states with a low presence of Union troops, continued practicing slavery. Texas was one of them. But on June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger issued General Order No 3 proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were free. Consequently, this date is now celebrated as a holiday commemorating the emancipation of all slaves in the United States.
Juneteenth celebrations, then
Black Americans celebrate Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, annually. Early celebrations consisted of baseball, fishing and rodeos and were usually hosted in churches, as Black Americans were prohibited from using public facilities at that time. Even in the worst times, Black people have shown resilience and gratitude for the smallest of victories and this, larger victory was certainly no different. Black Americans would gather, adorned in their best clothing, to enjoy a large, elaborate meal together.
Juneteenth celebrations, now
Today, much of that remains the same, even as we look past the party element to the deeper meaning and value of Juneteenth celebrations.
“Last year was hard due to COVID but we’ll likely do something this year,” says Michelle Francois, an Abu Dhabi-based expat. “I’m also hosting a financial literacy panel discussion, where we’ll talk about moving from a poverty mindset to a wealth mindset and rebuilding wealth in our communities.”
Michelle is not alone. The vibe among my family friends and social media circles is progressive. We want to remember the past but not repeat it and the best way forward is through education – each one, teach one. Moreover, this shift from strictly celebratory gatherings proves that the struggle to reverse 246 years of slavery and disenfranchisement is real . With regard to slavery, we (Black Americans) are still very much in recovery. As much as commemorative days like Juneteenth can spark a good time, it’s also a frequent reminder of the work that still needs to be done.
Increasing Juneteeth awareness
Awareness of Juneteenth, which holds as much, if not more significance to Black Americans as the Fourth of July, is growing.
“We have been celebrating Juneteenth for the last five years in the UAE but I’d like it to be a tradition that my children continue to pass on,” says Michelle. “Juneteenth is the day we celebrate to acknowledge enslaved Black Americans being declared free as per the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is our Independence Day!”
Pop culture has helped shine a light on Juneteenth as an important date in American history. TV shows centered on Black culture such as Atlanta and Black-ish dedicated episodes to the holiday, raising awareness both within and outside Black communities. Symbolic gestures have gone a long way too. In 2018, Apple and Google added Juneteenth to their calendars as official US holidays.
An official holiday
Legislation to make June 19 a national holiday in the US has been gathering steam ever since last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and since US President Joe Biden took office. Then this week, the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day.
Organizations such as the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation have worked tirelessly for such a designation.
Most states have recognized Juneteenth in some way before this year, either as a ceremonially or as state holiday. Texas was the first state to do so in 1980. By 2002, eight states officially recognized Juneteenth and four years later, 15 states did the same. By 2019, 47 states and the District of Columbia recognized Juneteenth, although only one state (Texas) has made it a paid holiday for state employees.
In 2020, the state governors of Virginia, New York and New Jersey signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a paid day of leave for state employees. Before the latest vote, Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota were the only states that did not recognize Juneteenth at all.
Top-tier corporations such as Twitter, the NFL and Nike had all declared Juneteenth a company holiday. In the meantime, Black Americans continued celebrating the emancipation of our ancestors with style and flair.
- Want a mindful Juneteeth celebration? Join the Wealthy Mindset virtual event on Thursday, June 17, 2021 via Zoom. Meeting ID: 874 216 8682 / Passcode: Wealthy!