As you likely know, yesterday President Biden signed authorizing legislation making June 19th, known as Juneteenth, a National Holiday.
Given the short notice, we will celebrate the day as a paid holiday this Monday, June 21st. In years to come we will adjust the day off depending on when June 19th falls.
Many people believe that slavery ended on January 1, 1863 with the passage of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Actually, that proclamation only freed slaves in the then Confederate States. It was on January 31, 1865 that the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted which prohibited slavery in the entire United States.
It was only when the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865 that slavery was effectively ended. Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865. After the war’s end, it took some time for the news to reach all of the Confederacy. On June 19th, the Union Army reached the last border of the Confederacy and in Galveston announced the freedom of the 250,000 slaves in Texas.
African Americans have ever since celebrated Juneteenth as the effective end of slavery in the United States.
Some 250 years’ later, the American experience of citizens of African descent and others of color remains a complicated and often inequitable one. There have been many improvements and milestone civil rights legislation has passed, much of it in my lifetime. Inarguably though, by any metric: salaries, health, education, housing, employment, or longevity, Americans of color fare worse than Caucasians.
Remarkably, in the past decade, we have had a Black President and, now, a Black Vice President. Those stellar examples do not in of themselves create a level playing field for all, but they are an important marker forward. In Dr. King’s words, “The arc of moral history is long, but it bends towards justice.”
It is just that the long oppression of Black Americans and their freedom on June 19th is marked by a National Holiday. I am glad for JusticeWorks to participate in this momentous day.
Enjoy your day off and be safe,