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Importance of Juneteenth in American History- 19th June



“Juneteenth”... Does the word sound like a newly coined term which is used colloquially for fun? Don’t worry, it’s not only you but many who often get confused by the term.

However, you are going to be surprised to know that, “Juneteenth” refers to a remarkable day in the history of African-Americans. Considered to be the oldest commemoration at the national level, Juneteenth is celebrated for highlighting the end of slavery in the United States. To brief about the historic importance of this day, one must go back to the year 1865, when in Galveston, Texas, 19th June has been declared as the African American Emancipation Day.

The most awaited Order Number 3 has been read out by General Granger whereby declaring that, according to the Executive of the US, a Proclamation is made to free all the slaves. In reference to President Lincoln’s abolition of slavery in 1863, The Proclamation in 1865 even states an “absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer”. The ratification of 13th Amendment of the US Constitution is found to abolish slavery at the national level.

That day onwards, the day is marked as a memorial day of celebration down the ages since hundred and fifty five years.

Today the US not only celebrates the freedom for African Americans but also focuses on their education and achievement. In fact, this day is also highlighted as a day to rejoice. Not only a day or a week, but sometimes at some places even celebrated for a month, thereby having family gatherings, picnics, church gatherings, parades, prayer gatherings, cookouts, historical and cultural readings, celebrations and guest speakers. It is interesting to know about the important role that food plays here, whereby arranging for barbeques to make the day memorable with family and friends. Marcus Garvey Salad, one of the most famous dish mainly made with red, black and green beans is a fit for this day, is named after the black activist Marcus Garvey.

This day imbibes in people a sense of self-reflection, self-assessment, self-improvement, thereby developing maturity and dignity in planning for future. It is believed that, unless one senses the situations and experiences of others, one cannot understand the necessary, important and long-lasting improvements required in the society. More importantly, it is also considered as a day to showcase the vigour in the American spirit thereby identifying the wrong and setting out to make it right with the help of the same spirit. The main motive here is to work together for all that is good and just.

However, in the later years, there have been situations where the “black people” have been separated from the so-called “white society” thereby limitizing their civil rights.  In 1994, National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) points out that a group of Juneteenth leaders gathered and arranged for the “Modern Juneteenth Movement” in New Orleans with the motive to work towards the greater exposure of Juneteenth. Even in recent years, especially during the nationwide revolts over police brutality along with the death of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, there is a question arising on the celebration of freedom on this day. Nonetheless, the fear is nullified with the initiatives like the anti-racisim protests, and the last year’s guilty verdict in the murder of Mr. Floyd. The celebration mood is again back in the American population.

It is also important for the upcoming generation to know about the act appropriately. If one talks about the education of Juneteeth in schools, it is not much in people’s knowledge. In some textbooks, the reference of Juneteeth is present, however, in mainstream teaching, Juneteenth has not been a significant topic. In fact, a common mistake done by most educational institution is to centralize the US Government as the ultimate figure to grant the freedom. Nonetheless, with the passage of time, education has also evolved. People are now thinking presenting it in a much more psychologically feasible manner to make students understand that, enslaved people has never accepted enslavement willfully or waited for someone in shining armour to free them. In fact, they have been consistent in their restrictions and rebellions.

Moreover, current news report brings forth the expectation that, very soon the US President Joe Biden is going to declare Juneteenth as a national holiday, thereby paying a tribute to the act of ending slavery after the American Civil War (1861-65).

So on this note, let us all hope that, the day is not only going to signify the liberation of the enslaved people in Texas but also liberation from the thoughts of any kind of discrimination based on racism whereby promoting the interests of the deprived, the under-privileged and the needy.




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