Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Juneteenth! Should It Be A National Holiday?

Today is Juneteenth, the day that African Americans have been celebrating the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the legal ending of involuntary servitude (a.k.a. slavery) in the United States since 1865.

I was unaware until today that there is a campaign to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. I am very well aware that there is only one federal holiday (Independence Day on July 4th) between Memorial Day at the end of May and Labor Day on the first Monday of September. That's pretty rough going for people like me who work for the Federal Government.

Today  U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced legislation to have the federal government recognize Juneteenth:

June 19, shortened to the unique date Juneteenth, has become the symbolic anniversary of the freeing of the slaves. The Juneteenth Independence Day observance would be similar to Flag Day or Arbor Day; institutions would not be closed, but the event would have national recognition.
"By observing this day, our nation will honor the role that Juneteenth has played in African American culture in Texas and throughout the country, and it will remind us that, in America, we are all blessed to live in freedom," Hutchison said in an e-mail.
Hutchison's staff, not authorized to be quoted by name, says the legislation is not controversial and they do not expect any opposition.
The bill is another step in a movement to bring Juneteenth into prominence. Forty-one states have passed bills establishing a state observance of Juneteenth, almost half of them since 2007.
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, to declare that the Civil War had ended and that all enslaved people were free. General Order Number 3, as it's known, was read by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger. The declaration came more than two years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which he issued Sept. 22, 1862, to take effect Jan. 1, 1863.
Hmmm, well I am glad that the process for federal recognition is moving along.


Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D. said...

Juneteenth is America’s 2nd Independence Day celebration. Americans of African descent were trapped in the tyranny of enslavement on the country’s first “4th of July”, 1776, Independence Day.

It took over 88 years for the news of freedom to be announced in Southwest Texas, the last southern state in rebellion during the Civil War, where enslavement was allowed, over two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln. The dynamic leadership of abolitionist Frederick Douglass was very important to the ending of enslavement in America.

41 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or state holiday observance, the District of Columbia, as well as the Congress of the United States.

We join our ancestors, Americans of African descent, in the celebration of the announcement of freedom, on the "19th of June", Juneteenth. It was the 13th Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress on December 6, 1865, and signed by the Secretary of State on December 18, 1865, that was the legal action that ended enslavement in America.

The "Modern Juneteenth Movement" recognizes and supports Juneteenth as our National Freedom Day, when we come together as Americans to celebrate freedom from enslavement in the nation.

The "19th of June" and the "4th of July" completes the cycle of Independence Day celebrations in America. You can not celebrate freedom in America without both days.

Together we will see Juneteenth become a national holiday observance in America!

Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign
National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)
National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC)
National Association of Juneteenth Jazz Presenters (NAJJP)

JosephW said...

"I am very well aware that there is only one federal holiday (Independence Day on July 4th) between Memorial Day at the end of May and Labor Day on the first Monday of September. That's pretty rough going for people like me who work for the Federal Government."

Yeah, really. It's almost as tough as that long stretch between Washington B'day (aka President's Day or Presidents' Day) on the 3rd Monday in February and Memorial Day (the last Monday in May), during which there are NO Federal holidays. I also work "for" the Federal Government, and that summer stretch really pales compared to the "spring stretch."

Maybe someone shouldn't have decided to cram so many holidays in November, December and January (half of all Federal holidays fall in those 3 months).


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