Juneteenth is a celebration that commemorates the day the last slaves were freed in the U.S. in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 by Union General Gordon Granger upon his arrival in Galveston the day before. The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 had freed only the slaves in territory previously held by the Confederacy so even though the Civil War was over by nearly two months, word had not reached the farthest corners of the country nor had Union troops yet arrived in some of these areas.
Since that first celebration of independence from the scourge of slavery though, Juneteenth has throughout American history taken on more meaning for the Black community representing now a widespread celebration of their rich cultural contributions to the American way of life.
This year’s Juneteenth brings special significance in light of the national and local protests against systemic racism and police brutality because even though slavery and Jim Crow have been abolished, America has yet to completely remove this sin from its collective soul as systemic racism still remains deeply rooted in our country. So on Friday, June 19, it is important for us to pause and remember what our fellow Black Americans have endured, appreciate their cultural heritage, contributions to our nation and commit ourselves in joint determination to striving for liberty and justice for all.