By: Catherine He
No matter your interests and hobbies on social media, it’s likely that you’ve heard the term ‘Juneteenth’ being thrown around on a multitude of posts and stories today, especially since, as of June 17, 2021, the date is now recognized as a federal holiday. But, if you’ve never seen or heard of the term before, you’re probably wondering, “What’s so significant about June 19th?”
What happened on June 19th?
Juneteenth is short for “June Nineteenth,” a day with extreme historical significance in the United States of America. As explained by History.com, June 19th marks the day when the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure the freedom of all the enslaved persons. These troops came a whole two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. In a nutshell, Juneteenth is considered Emancipation Day, a liberating landmark for the African-American community. Juneteenth is deemed the longest-standing African-American holiday, which is no surprise, especially given its significance.
The Transition to a National Holiday
While the African-American community may have recognized Juneteenth from time immemorial, it only recently became a national holiday; on June 17, 2021 via a bill signed by President Biden. However, its federal recognition as a national holiday has been a long time coming. The African-American community has been instrumental in the development of America into what we know it as today – as stated by Wall Street Journal, the last federal holiday created in 1983 was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Evidently, this particular community has maintained a flame and had an impact that can’t be measured by words alone. Even in the years preceding 2021, many were already recognizing the holiday, with a plethora of universities in particular taking the day off in respect.
So, today, despite how busy you may convince yourself to be, take a few moments to recognize our new national holiday, Juneteenth, be it through reading up on the traditions or even attending a prayer meeting. Even if you don’t celebrate yourself, it is essential to acknowledge this holiday as a part of our history and our present. Happy Juneteenth everyone!