So long fourth of July? Is Juneteenth America’s new birthday?
Thanks to Republican-backed legislation, last year, Juneteenth became a federal holiday. However, some state leaders didn’t follow and observe the holiday. This caused some citizens to file a petition for Juneteenth to be a state holiday officially.
Most Black organizers are seeing the struggles of achieving local support despite Juneteenth’s federal recognition. There are still 26 states haven’t adopted Juneteenth as a paid public holiday. Each Staes’ reasons for not observing the holiday varies. Some claim it’s due to disputes over the date of the holiday’s celebration.
Juneteenth is also known as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.” It commemorated the historic event on June 19, 1865. A full force of federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and they freed the enslaved African Americans. The Blacks finally tasted freedom two years after the US government signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
The emancipation of enslaved Black Americans was not the end of our nation's work to deliver on the promise of equality — it was only the beginning.
On Juneteenth, we recommit to our shared work to ensure racial justice, equity, and equality in America.
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 19, 2022
Many Black families look forward to and have grand celebrations very Juneteenth. In 2020, it gained more focus after the death of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. For some, the freedom from enslavement is one reason this holiday should be as good as the fourth of July.
Meanwhile, CNN opinion writer Peniel Joseph appealed that Juneteenth is “America’s true birthday” just as much as July fourth is. Joseph is a professor at the University of Texas and an active social justice activist.
He claimed that the June 19 holiday “matters now more than ever.” The Republican Party and former president Trump are causing “fear, anger, and anxiety towards black citizenship.”
This #Juneteenth, we celebrate the emancipation of Black Americans and honor those who fought for this nation to live up to its founding ideals of liberty and equality for all.
May we honor their legacies through action — building a world fueled by justice and steeped in equity.
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) June 19, 2022
Joseph also argued that the Florida bill restricts schools from teaching “members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior. He pointed out that this mentality prevents students from learning the meaning of systematic racism.
Juneteenth as State Holiday
Moreover, it’s not only Joseph that shares the same sentiment that Juneteenth should be in observance like July fourth. Some citizens of Florida agree it’s about time Juneteenth achieves the exact value just the same as America’s birthday.
There was a Juneteenth state holiday bill in place in Florida. However, the bill died as historians argued that the state should honor Florida’s Emancipation Day instead of celebrating Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is a time to commemorate the anniversary of the delayed news of freedom reaching the enslaved Black folks in Galveston, Texas. Today, we remember that struggle for freedom as we reflect on how far we’ve come as a country—and on the work that remains undone.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 19, 2022
Doris Moore Bailey from Lakeland, Florida, said, “We have two Independence Days – June 19 and Fourth of July. One freed the people, and one freed the land.”
Since 1992, Bailey and former state representative Dr. Alzo Reddick has worked together to make Juneteenth official and a tradition in her city. However, she struggles to gain support from the city leaders.
According to Mayor Bill Mutz, it can’t be a public holiday because the city calendar was planned a year in advance. Although the mayor agreed that Juneteenth “was certainly something we can observe in the future.”
While there are still some who are closed to the idea of officially turning Juneteenth into a state holiday, there are still groups and organizations open to the idea. Last year, NFL started playing a “black national anthem” before the US national anthem in football games.