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The History of Juneteenth – Why it Matters

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The next time you’re out with your sister fam, sipping Sunday morning sangria or a Monday night malbec, why not aim to hit a little harder with the convo? 

These are your sisters, after all. They’re the ones with whom you’re free to drop truth bombs, hot takes, and gems without judgment. So, it’s the ideal setting to have the realest of talks. 

For instance, Juneteenth is the ideal discussion–and jumping-off–point to explore yourselves and your relationship with the world around you. 

Juneteenth History. 

Here are the crucial deets that you should know about Juneteenth’s earliest history:

  • Confederate General Robert E. Lee throws up the white flag and concedes to end the Civil War.
  • Union General Gordon Granger then took two months to reach Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to tell enslaved African Americans they were free.

Stop to think about that for a moment. The war was over, and freedom was supposedly won, but slaves still had to wait for actual emancipation. Late might be better than never, but that’s just staggering. We really do take texting and modern transportation for granted. 

General Granger’s announcement brought to life the Emancipation Proclamation, issued around two and a half years prior by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. 

Other names for Juneteenth are as follows:

  • Freedom Day.
  • Emancipation Day.
  • Juneteenth Independence Day.

 A Celebration Of African American Freedom And Racial Equality. 

Juneteenth celebrations began as family gatherings filled with prayer. Soon, Emancipation Day also included formerly enslaved peoples–and their families–pilgrimaging to Galveston. 

Additionally, Emancipation Park was purchased in 1872 in Houston by a group of African American businessmen and preachers. The 10-acre patch of land was meant to hold the city’s Juneteenth celebration and continues to do so in the 2020s.

These days, families celebrate Juneteenth during backyard cookouts. The food is always delicious, the takes are hot, and the banter is next-level.  

That said, those looking to go all out with their Juneteenth festivities have options to spare

For example, Galveston has remained a go-to spot for Juneteenth events over the years. The city dedicated a 5,000-square-foot mural in 2021.

The Evolution Of Juneteenth Into A National Holiday. 

Juneteenth was first made a statewide holiday by Texas in 1980 when queens like Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, and Diana Ross reigned supreme.

Really, though, Juneteenth was still a whisper on a broader societal level in those days. If you were to bring up Juneteenth to a non-POC, they’d think you mispronounced a number.

Juneteenth only kicked off something fierce when protestors fought against police brutality in 2020. Soon enough, Congress and President Biden made Juneteenth law on June 17, 2021, officially making Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday. 

President Biden gave specific credit to an 89-year-old activist named Opal Lee, who walked to Washington, DC, from her home in Fort Worth. The president referred to her as the grandmother of the Juneteenth movement and an integral force in making Emancipation Day a federal holiday. 

Be sure to raise a glass to Opal on Juneteenth. She did boss things. And she made things happen. That’s what #SquadGoals are all about.

The Significance Of Juneteenth: A Link To Black History And The Fight For Racial Equality. 

We all know the names by this point: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many others. All victims of police brutality. 

Those who thought we’d “moved past” racism and inequality in the US received a rude awakening in the wake of these crimes. It became clear how far the US was from where it needed to be.

The ensuing protests reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement, spearheading wide-sweeping changes. 

For instance, Minneapolis lawmakers banned chokeholds for police while forcing officers to intervene and report unauthorized uses of force. Congressional Democrats targeted racial discrimination and misconduct by law enforcement in the most expansive example of policing intervention in recent memory. 

Also, Derek Chauvin, the officer responsible for George Floyd’s death, was found guilty of two counts of murder in April 2021.

These are all positives–but the fight goes on. Changes remain slow-going (some experts suggest hope is fading), and racial inequality remains a glaring systemic issue throughout the US.

As women, equality–a central theme of Juneteenth–is a topic we should always explore through all possible lenses. Understanding the broader fight against oppression strengthens and better equips us to continue fighting for what we deserve.

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