Juneteenth becomes a US federal holiday | Voice of America

WASHINGTON – Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday in the United States after President Joe Biden promulgated it on Thursday. But African Americans have celebrated every June 19 since 1865, when the last enslaved blacks learned of their freedom on that date, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It was also a day to reflect on their struggle for freedom and justice, and to teach life history to younger generations.

Kelly Elaine Navies, museum specialist and oral historian at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, explains that General Gordon Granger arrived in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. He was accompanied by 1,800 soldiers. of the Union. , many of whom were United States colored troops, and he announced General Order # 3, which informed Texans that all slaves were no longer in slavery.

President Joe Biden hands Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., A pen after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 17, 2021.

“This meant that slavery was legally ended and the slaves were now free. This was important because although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, it only really had an impact on the States of Confederation, and then only on the States where there was a union presence. Said Marines.

Marines remembers when she was a child that her father, who was an educator, made a tradition of celebrating Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day.

“He would not only invite his students to Berkeley High School, but he would also invite his friends, family and members of the community. Barbecuing any time of the night, from an early age my job was chopping onions and potatoes, ”Navies said. “And we would have an intergenerational program. The children would play and read poetry, create dances and turn on the microphone. Seniors will talk and share stories of their experiences being black in America.

Juneteenth has been a public holiday in nearly all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. Last year, following millions of people demonstrating against racial injustice after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, a bipartisan group tried to get Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday. federal.

Terrence Floyd, brother of the late George Floyd who was killed by a police officer, reacts during the Floyd statue unveiling event as part of the Juneteenth celebrations in Brooklyn, New York on June 19, 2021.

On Thursday, after more than 150 years, Juneteenth was established as the newest federal holiday in a White House ceremony after a bill was passed in Congress days earlier.

Howard University Law School Professor Justin Hansford said Juneteenth was not only a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, but also a day of remembrance.

Juneteenth becomes a federal holiday in the United States

“I am looking forward to not only seeing the June 15 holiday recognized by the federal government, but I look forward to seeing how it is recognized, how it is celebrated, how it is used as an educational tool for people and how it can finally bring us closer to what was the hope of emancipation, which is freedom for all. I think this can be a positive development for the good of all of us, ”said Hansford.

But the Howard University law professor also noted the dichotomy between what happened in Washington and current events in the state of Texas.

“The same day as June 15 [bill] passed in the Senate, the state of Texas, where Juneteenth is from, passed the law prohibiting the teaching of Project 1619, banning critical race theory, prohibiting the possibility of teaching black history ”, Hansford said. “So it’s almost like a joke where you pass a proclamation recognizing a significant moment in black history and at the same time on the same day the state where that particular incident took place passes a law banning education. of black history. “

HB 3979, a law to abolish critical race theory in Texas, was enacted June 16 by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

The bill, which takes effect September 1, was sponsored by state representative Steve Toth. Despite the fact that the measure bans Critical Race Theory, he said in an interview with the National Review that “The facts are very clear, very explicit, we do not prohibit, we do not discourage discussion of whatever. it would be.”

But Hansford said it’s important to understand that there is a connection between Juneteenth and the ban on certain teachings.

“Remember that the story of Juneteenth is a story about black people who were free, but the knowledge of their freedom, the awareness of their freedom was denied to them,” said Hansford. “And here, at the same time, we see this same denial of access to information and denial of access to knowledge enshrined in the law of the state of Texas, the state of Florida and other states. who adopt these anti-critical measures. laws of racial theory.

Statement by Juneteenth Holiday Sparks Scramble in States

They sought to clarify their policies on compliance with less than a business day’s notice.

Critical breed theory, according to Hansford, is “an area of ​​study that seeks to discover how this breed played a central role in the way American society is structured.” Although debated by academics since the 1970s, it has only recently become a political issue.

Last week, the Florida Board of Education banned teaching theory in its public schools. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis explained why he supports the ban in a recent interview with WPLG, an ABC-affiliated television station in Miami.

“I think it will cause people to see themselves more as a member of a particular race based on skin color rather than the content of their character,” DeSantis said.

In Leesburg, Virginia, near Washington, last weekend, a rally was held against the critical teaching of racial theory. Activist Patti Menders explained that she opposes anti-racism education because she believes it causes white children to see themselves as “oppressors.”

But while the school curriculum is a lightning rod for controversy, a June 17 federal holiday has become law.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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