Juneteenth: Why It Matters

It’s time to Break It Down!

I’m sure there are Americans who’ve never heard of it, though the number is likely decreasing each year. As we delve further into the digital age, all variety of media explore more deeply, almost every topic known to man. Juneteenth certainly falls into that category.

To be clear, Juneteenth is an American federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The backstory on how Juneteenth came to be a thing in the first place is prima facie evidence of why the term American Exceptionalism is oxymoronic, in both derivation, and in contemporary assertion.

A year ago, on June 15, 2021, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution establishing June 19th as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Momentum for this legislation had been increasing since the spate of Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, and Democrats taking over Congress and the White House after the November 2020 Election. However, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson spiked the bill in 2020, saying it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Johnson relented on his opposition last year, despite lingering concerns. He said:

“Although I strongly support celebrating Emancipation, I objected to the cost and lack of debate. While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss this matter.”

The measure was overwhelmingly approved by the House on June 16, 2021, and then signed into law by President Biden a day later, June 17, 2021.

In the beginning, Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, the end of slavery, in accord with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Initially issued September 22, 1862, the Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863. Slave owners in Texas had for two and a half years, somehow managed not to pass that information along to their enslaved population. Hence, the oxymoronic utilization of the term American Exceptionalism, dating all the way back to the 19th Century. Go figure. 

Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980. With Governor Kristi Noem’s signing of a bill in South Dakota on February 11, 2022, every state in the Union commemorates the day, though only a few states observe it as a paid holiday.

Senators Ed Markey, D-MA, and John Cornyn, R-TX, along with Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX are among the members of Congress who spearheaded the initiative to make Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday. It’s about time. “Juneteenth: Why It Matters!”

I’m done; holla back!

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