Many people understand July 4th to be the biggest holiday to celebrate independence and freedom in the United States (the US). While it is certainly the most well-known, it is not the only nor the most important holiday that celebrates independence… Today is known as Juneteenth, and it is an important historical date for many, many families in the US. So, why are there two dates, and how are they different? Understanding the stark difference between the two independences declared in the US is critical to understanding the current social structure of the nation.
Independence Day commemorates the Declaration of Independence, which was ratified on July 4, 1776, thus establishing the United States of America. Juneteenth marks the effective end of slavery in the US. On June 19, 1865, a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform the last enslaved African Americans of their freedom – more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two years prior. Historical facts aside, Independence Day celebrates gaining independence at a collective and national level, whereas Juneteenth celebrates a much more personal freedom for so many of the people in America – it marks the landmark order that freed thousands of people.
Juneteenth and Independence Day don’t necessarily work together to form a full picture of independence and freedom in the US. Instead, Juneteenth can be thought of as an important response to Independence Day. Juneteenth declares that while the people have the right form their own political parties or communities and make laws, -- those rights absolutely do not allow the enslaving enslave of people ever again.
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Juneteenth provides just a small glimpse into the US’s long history of slow response for aid and equitable treatment of Black people, an issue that continues today. We all have a role to play in understanding and acknowledging this history while celebrating Black independence and joy on Juneteenth. To help us all acknowledge, celebrate, and lift up Black America today, Good Good Good has compiled this excellent list of actions. We’ve listed a few below to get you started.
- Attend a Juneteenth walk or parade.
- Support Black-owned businesses.
- Give your employees time off — or additional pay — for Juneteenth.
- Create an informative email auto-response
- Talk to your kids about race.
- Do something to make a Black person’s life easier — with their consent
Diversity makes us all stronger, and learning each other’s history and struggles, and taking action wherever we can to lift each other up makes us even stronger.