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June + June 19th = Juneteenth!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
June 19, 2023

“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.” — General Order Number 3, delivered by Major General Gordon Granger, June 19, 1865, at Galveston, TX.

Are you in the know about our latest federal holiday, “Juneteenth”? Let’s find out! Here’s a little pre-test for you:

T or F:  Juneteenth is the milestone celebration day on which the news of emancipation began to reach the approximately 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.

T or F:  Juneteenth was / is often referred to as the jubilee because the news of freedom from chattel slavery caused much jubilation for black Texans in 1865.

T or F:  Juneteenth started in Texas as a traditional celebration of freedom but later spread to many other states, long before it became a federal holiday.

T or F:  Juneteenth is both a federal and a national holiday.

T or F:  The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln, had legally freed the enslaved in Texas on January 1, 1863, almost 2½ years earlier.

T or F:  Some enslavers withheld the information from enslaved people, holding them enslaved through one more harvest season.

T or F:  Some communities purchased land for Juneteenth celebrations, such as Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas.

T or F:  Texans celebrated Juneteenth beginning in 1866 with community-centric events, such as parades, cookouts, prayer gatherings, historical and cultural readings and musical performances.

T or F:  On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth officially became a Texas state holiday. Al Edwards, a freshman state representative, put forward the bill, H.B. 1016, making Texas the first state to grant this emancipation celebration.

T or F:  Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, signed into law by President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

T or F:  Texas was the last state in the confederacy to abolish slavery but was the first state to legalize the celebration of Juneteenth Independence Day. 

Let’s take a moment to review the nature of holidays in the United States. There are federal holidays and there are national holidays—what’s the difference? Well, on federal holidays federal government offices, banks and post offices are closed. National holidays follow the same and are days established by law for the entire country as non-working days. Juneteenth is a federal and a national holiday—celebrated in all 50 states, 22 of which, and the District of Columbia, have designated Juneteenth as a permanent paid and/or legal holiday through legislation or executive action.

Recent U.S. Presidents have all remarked on the essence of Juneteenth as a celebration of freedom and inculcating the event into Americanism:

“Psalm 30 proclaims that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and discrimination, and the promise of a brighter morning to come.  My Administration is committed to building an economy — and a Nation — that brings everyone along, and finally delivers our Nation’s founding promise to Black Americans.  Together, we will lay the roots of real and lasting justice, so that we can become the extraordinary country that was promised to all Americans.” — President Joseph R. Biden Jr., June 18, 2021

“Juneteenth reminds us of both the unimaginable injustice of slavery and the incomparable joy that must have attended emancipation. It is both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our Nation’s unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness.  That ability is rooted in the fundamental goodness of America.” — President Donald J. Trump, June 19, 2020

How is it that a singular event down in Texas becomes a federal holiday for all Americans? Simple—as Americans we treasure the pursuit of equality among all citizens, equal application of the rule of law and justice in the same manner for every one of us. Juneteenth Independence Day celebrates those ideals. Often, people say that it is becoming a habit to focus on all the less-than-glowing moments of our history. However, it is morally correct to seek to hold up the great moments of American history and celebrate them—to reaffirm our commitment to our own ideals and to show the world what we believe in as Americans. Juneteenth is one of those exemplars. Find out how your community is celebrating Juneteenth Independence Day triumph of freedom and join in!

PS: All the “test” questions are TRUE!

Author: Dr. Robert Brescia respects the wisdom of generations, promotes the love of learning, teaches ethics to university students, government & politics to AP seniors, and leadership to organizations. He is a candidate with the National Board for Certification of Teachers (NBCT) at Stanford University and serves as Social Studies Department Chair at Permian High School in Odessa, TX. The Governor of Texas re-appointed him to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) for a six-year term. Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. Contact him at [email protected].

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