Today is Juneteenth. Juneteenth, also known as “Black Independence Day” or “Freedom Day”, commemorates the official end of slavery in the U.S. On this day in 1865, a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally learned that they were free from the institution of slavery, despite the Emancipation Proclamation being issued more than two years earlier in January 1863.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
On that day, 250,000 enslaved people were freed, and exercised their freedom not by “remaining quietly at their present homes,” but by purchasing ten acres of land they named Emancipation Park, located in Houston, creating a space of power and reverence. This is where some of the first Juneteenth celebrations were held.
Juneteenth is a celebration of the resilience and joy of Black communities by bringing families together for parades, picnics, and festivals by Black members of the community. But Juneteenth is also a sobering reminder of justice delayed, of the continued fight for true equity for Black communities and our Black trans family.
Texas was the last state to recognize the end of slavery, but more than 100 years later in 1980, it became the first state to name Juneteenth a state holiday recognizing the need for a day to uplift the history and experience of Black communities. We don’t need to wait another 100 years to remove more systemic barriers in the quest for racial justice. Today, despite how far the fight for equity has come, Juneteenth celebrations demand that we acknowledge how far we still have to go. This acknowledgement should not be limited to states that have officially recognized Juneteenth as a holiday, but should be a national moment for us to reckon with the systemic racism in our country and what we must change. We need to listen to our Black leaders and support their efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday.
Designating Juneteenth as a national holiday is just the beginning. Communities all over Texas are living the true spirit of this holiday and taking in the day’s significance in our current moment. Today on social media we are uplifting celebrations and analysis from across the state. You can see some of what Texans are doing, from festivals and online discussions to marches and petitions, below:
Please let us know of other celebrations happening, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org