Make Juneteenth a National Holiday NowRoundup
tags: African American history, emancipation, Juneteenth
Peniel Joseph is the Barbara Jordan chair in ethics and political values and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of several books, most recently The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of emancipation that has been celebrated in the African American community since June 19, 1865, should be a national federal holiday. On that day, in Galveston, Texas, a military officer informed African Americans that they had secured their freedom, more than two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring "all persons held as slaves" in the rebelling Confederate states to be free.
A national holiday commemorating Juneteenth would spur not only conversation about the origins of our current racial and political conflicts, but would also prompt vitally necessary education about white supremacy and its manifestations in policies and political actions that are anti-black, anti-democratic and anti-human.
In the African American community Juneteenth represents a sacred day of memory marked by millions of people annually participating in festivals, parades and other gatherings. National holidays serve as the ultimate reflection of the sacrifices of workers, soldiers and patriotic Americans who shed blood for democracy and gave of themselves for this republic. No group deserves this honor more than the generations of enslaved African American who were key to building the United States into the greatest superpower the world has ever known.
Commemorating Juneteenth as a national holiday would serve as an important reminder, no matter which political party occupied the White House or their political rhetoric, that racial slavery and the black Americans who helped end this system of bondage have been imprinted on the soul of this nation. We carry the active scars and unhealed wounds that are just beginning to be acknowledged and America must never forget how its enslaved African Americans and their descendants continue to shape its present and future.
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