Juneteenth – What is it, and why it matters to American history

As of Thursday, June 17, 2021, Juneteenth National Independence Day has become the 12th legal public holiday. To many, this recognition is long overdue, as it has been a day of remembrance for decades. Beyond a day off from work for many, what does this holiday mean and why should we all take some time out to reflect on its bearing in history?

This day marks the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in 1865 following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 – that’s right, two and a half years after the Proclamation was signed. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, with General Gordon Granger at the helm, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver what was known as General Order Number 3. This order official ended slavery in Texas and the country. Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln did not live to see the true fruits of his labor, as he was assassinated on April 15, 1865, merely two months before the last enslaved African Americans were freed. His work, however, was not done in vain.

This holiday has been a long time coming for many, even though there is still so much more work that needs to be done. Some ideas to celebrate Juneteenth are:

  • Read up on the significance of Juneteenth with your family and friends
  • Be loud and proud about the holiday and encourage others to celebrate.
  • Participate in a community event or a cookout, bringing people together from all cultures, to celebrate and remember the importance of this day on our nation’s history – while being open to listening and learning from Black neighbors, friends, and family members.
  • Buy from Black-owned businesses and show your support for their work.
  • Take the online tour from the Smithsonian’s exhibit Celebrating Juneteenth – this is an incredibly well put together memorial to the day.
  • Donate your time or treasure to causes you believe in, especially those with Black CEOs or People of Color on their Board of Directors.

We here at VANTAGE Aging honor, remember, and celebrate this incredibly important day in our nation’s history. We hear you and are here for you. For more information about our programs, visit www.vantageaging.org.

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