Understanding The History and Significance of Juneteenth

Juneteenth’s formalization as a federal holiday is long overdue. 19 June 1865 marked two months after the Confederacy’s surrendering, effectively enacting the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas (though it had been law for two years), and thus freeing the slaves there. Nearly 100 years later, in 1980, Texas adopted the day as a state holiday, but many call it “merely symbolic.” Since, 40+ states have moved to recognize the day—with New York’s mayor declaring 19 June a public holiday for state employees. But the day means different things to different people. For many Black individuals, it’s a day of celebration—with parties, parades and city-wide events focused on Black joy, resistance and resilience. For white people, it’s about acknowledging and learning about the USA’s dark history, and reflecting on the ways that history continues to affect the country today. Mark Anthony Neal (African-American studies scholar at Duke University) tells Derrick Bryson Taylor, this year’s Juneteenth is especially poignant, “The stakes are a little different. Many African-Africans, Black Americans, feels as though this is the first time in a long time that they have been heard in a way across the culture.” Read more at The New York Times.