By Lori Perkins
Like the day it celebrates, it took years for the new holiday to become official. Juneteenth is the day when slavery in the United States was officially ended after the Civil War by a decree in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. But as most of us know (and more of us are going to learn), enslaved people in America weren’t all set free at the same time. For those in Texas, it took three and half years for the news of their freedom to be officially declared, which is considered the start of this day of celebration on June 17th, 1866.
President Joseph Biden just signed a proclamation to name July 19th as the official date for a new annual Federal holiday. This is the first new federal holiday in 40 years, after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
This year, the new holiday falls on a Saturday, but many businesses are quickly giving their employees Friday off.
Right now, there are concerts and outdoor events springing up all over, the most notable of which is the Free Juneteenth Unityfest Livestream with Earth Wind & Fire, Nile Rogers and Chic, Dave Mathews and more. The concert is billed as bringing together “diverse voices in a commemoration and celebration of one of the most important events in Black history and American history.”
In the past, Juneteenth has been celebrated with public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation as well as large cook outs.
Personally, since the history of Juneteenth was brought to my attention by the novel Ralph Ellison was working on with that title, I choose to pick it up and read a chapter or two.
It will be interesting to see how this holiday evolves as an American tradition. Hopefully, we won’t be seeing BOGO sales in the years to come.