While we just passed the Fourth of July and independence was celebrated all across America, to think that such celebration for a hundred years was not shared by the African community is truly disturbing and requires more consideration than we are giving. Even after the glorious years of independence, there were a large majority of states with the then ‘enslaved’ people, such as legislation that stopped ‘slavery’ by declaring Missouri as a slave state to spare the rest of Louisiana. These circumstances further lead to the break of the Civil War in the country, leading to the much-anticipated independence of enslaved African Americans. It was January 1st, 1863, when all confederate states were declared independent after the emancipation legislation had come into effect. Many members of the black community that fought in the war spread throughout to announce this proclamation of independence. The celebration was the first of the many against discrimination that exists regarding African Americans in society.
This declaration was called and engraved into the very solid and rigid constitution of the United States as the thirteenth amendment. Such amendments take years, and there have been only twelve actual amendments over the years. Under this amendment, slavery was abolished and ended throughout the country.
Though this kind of declaration was made nationwide and immediate effect started to change, there were lots of ‘recoils’ from such an action, and complete independence was not achieved in certain states until later that year. There were still many states in the country under the direct control of the Confederation. The areas most influenced in such circumstances were Texas and the western portion of the country. Even after most of the country celebrating freedom at the start of 1863, these people didn’t get to experience such propensity later until June 19th, 1865. This is why Juneteenth is celebrated to mark the actual independence of the African American ancestors freed in the year 1865.
The independence came about after troops arrived in Texas, 2000 Union troops made sure to pass on the proclamation that all 250,000 enslaved citizens were now free; that is why the holiday is known as Juneteenth.
Though this was the beginning of a revolution for African Americans, it did not mean the end of the struggle. The independence followed a significant era of reconstruction in 1865-1877. The independence had been controversial for many white supremacists. While there hadn’t been any further amendments to the constitution, it didn’t mean that the African American population had gotten the same amount of independence shared by the whites. There had been great racial injustice and segregation that once again suggested the division between African Americans and the Caucasian population. The segregation in schooling hadn’t ended until Brown V Board of Education in 1969. Which if thought about is less than 60 years ago. Even after this revolution, there had been significant incidents of racial injustices in all aspects.
The reconstruction era allowed for a lot of legislation within the state and also in federal capacities. African American people who had just gained their independence quickly stepped into their role and began to establish their schools. They started the rehabilitation process of the formerly enslaved people. The accomplishments of these people are massive, keeping in mind that they had recently endured the pressure and trauma of slavery. It is essential to celebrate Juneteenth to remind the generations that a balanced system was achieved after many struggles.
History is often manipulated in politics; whenever we see uncolored pictures of Ruby Bridges, we would assume that such hatred inflicted by a whole generation of white Americans was centuries ago, but the incident is 1960. Today, people would assume that Ruby wouldn’t even be alive though she is only 66 years old. From the same era, we can see colored pictures of Hollywood celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, etc. Thus, pretending like slavery and discrimination is a century-old concept in America is pure manipulation; African Americans have significantly struggled to earn their place at the table. As of recent, they have overcome the challenges set for them to be considered in positions of power and success.
Just recently, Juneteenth has earned the same amount of protocol as the 4th of July has had centuries ago. Now huge companies like Nike and Uber are giving their employees a paid day off. States like Virginia and New York have declared state holidays. Just this year, the House of Representatives recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and it has become a law with the assent of President Biden’s approval. However, there have been Republican backlash on this. People question whether Juneteenth distracts African Americans from the racial injustice they face by giving them a day out of the year. But the truth lies in the fact that whether it be a leftist strategy. It is also marking the great struggle of the African American community in America. The sacrifices post and pre-civil war to single out a day from the year is not the end of the world or a vast conspiracy. It is to honor a part of America that had been neglected a century after her independence.
BBC News. (n.d.). Juneteenth: What is the newest US holiday and how is it celebrated? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57515192