Why Juneteenth is Worthy of Celebration

The newest American holiday – Juneteenth – is on Monday, June 19th.

Events celebrating and commemorating it will take place the preceding weekend.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 when bipartisan legislation passed the Senate unanimously and the House 415 to 14 then was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Black Texans have celebrated Juneteenth since the end of the Civil War.  In 1979, Texas made Juneteenth a state holiday.

Today it is an official state holiday in 28 states, including my adopted state of Tennessee but ironically not quite yet in my native state of California.

My advice to candidates is to attend and participate in a Juneteenth event if they can.

Candidates should also make mention of Juneteenth on their socials, sharing photos and videos from events, and making specific note of the holiday on Monday.

I know there are some who might dispute this advice, as there  is a fair amount of misinformation circulating about Juneteenth by hyper-partisans on both the Right and the Left that obscure the true purpose and importance of this day.

That’s why I want to cut through the partisan noise and get to the point.

Juneteenth at its core about Freedom.

If there should be one word in the English language synonymous with with the United States of America it is the word freedom.

The United States was founded upon the belief that “all men are created equal.”

However, our country hasn’t always lived up to this and slavery was the great contradiction to this deepest of American creeds.

Race based slavery separated the northern and southern states in major ways, from colonial times into the framing of the Constitution, from the expansion westward and horrifically into the war between the states.

This conflict had long been simmering with blood spilt in the 1850s in the Kansas Territory and at Harpers Ferry. But  it was the election of Abraham Lincoln as president 1860 that divided the country and ignited the Civil War.

Lincoln represented the new Republican Party founded in 1854 on a platform to stop the expansion of slavery into the western territories of the U.S.

Following Lincoln’s election, 11 southern states seceded from the union, thus triggering the American Civil War.

During the bloody conflict Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 that freed slaves in the rebellious states.

He also shepherded through Congress the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to prohibit slavery in any part of the United States in the future.

While President Lincoln was assassinated before all rebel forces surrendered and the 13th Amendment ratified, his leadership not only preserved the United States, but ended slavery throughout our country.

The last slaves to be emancipated in the south were in Galveston, Texas.

On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger issued General Orders 3 specifying in accordance with the Emancipation of Proclamation that all slaves held in bondage in Texas were “henceforth and forever free.”

The date became known as Juneteenth by combining the words June and the Nineteenth. It is also known Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, marking the end of slavery in the southern states.

Slavery officially became outlawed in United States on December 6, 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified, amending the Constitution to state “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Most Americans have been raised to believe that freedom is their birthright. I believe this to fundamentally be true for all human beings, yet it is not a practical reality — nor has it been.

There are plenty of those in our world and throughout history who for various reasons oppose and fear freedom.

Freedom is precious and it is our responsibility to protect, defend, cherish, and honor it. That is why it is appropriate for Juneteenth to be a holiday that all Americans recognize and celebrate.

Juneteenth is about freedom for a large group of American citizens whose ancestors did not immigrate to this country by choice, nor whose forebears were born into a land of freedom and opportunity.

Freedom for Black Americans, as is the case for all Americans, came through struggle, sacrifice, and blood.

The blood of thousands of both White and Black Americans was spilled between 1861 and 1865 to not only to end the inhumane practice of slavery, but to ensure “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

That is why Juneteenth is a holiday and that is why it is worthy for all those who claim they love America and freedom to celebrate it.

When the passions of our day eventually cool, hopefully that is how Juneteenth will be viewed.

And those of us involved in the political arena should do our part now to help cool them, because when I last looked at the news the American people have much bigger and an important matters weighing on their minds.