Juneteenth Celebrations Across America
Americans across the country celebrated Juneteenth this weekend, a relatively new national holiday with cookouts, parades, and other gatherings to commemorate the end of slavery after the Civil War.
While many have treated the long holiday weekend as a reason to party, others urged a quiet reflection on America’s often violent and oppressive treatment of its black citizens. And still, others have commented on the strangeness of celebrating a federal holiday marking the end of slavery in the nation while many Americans are trying to prevent parts of that history from being taught in public schools.
Controversy Surrounding Juneteenth
“Is Juneteenth the only federal holiday where some states have banned the teaching of its history and meaning?” Author Michelle Duster asked on Twitter this weekend, referring to measures in Florida, Oklahoma, and Alabama that prohibit an Advanced Placement African-American studies course or the teaching of certain concepts of race and racism.
The federal holiday Monday commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued during the bloody Civil War.
Reflection and Action
“To have justice, we must work for peace. And to have peace, we must work for justice,” John Thorne, executive director of the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, told the Gesu Catholic Church congregation in Detroit. Standing in front of paintings of a black Jesus and Mary, Thorne emphasized that Juneteenth is a day of celebration, but it also “has to be so much more.”
It was important to talk about Juneteenth during Sunday Mass, the Rev. Lorn Snow told a reporter as the service drew to a close. “The fight is not over yet. There is a lot of work to be done,” she said.
Most African Americans agree, according to a recent poll. Seventy percent of black adults polled in an AP-NORC poll said “a lot” needs to be done to achieve equal treatment for African-Americans in the police force. Additionally, black Americans suffer significantly worse health outcomes than their white peers on a variety of measures, including rates of maternal mortality, asthma, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Local Celebrations and Historical Significance
Although celebrations of the end of slavery are new in many parts of the country, in Memphis, where the slave trade once flourished, the June 16 holiday has been celebrated long before it became a designated federal holiday in 2021. The Tennessee Legislature passed a bill earlier this year making it a state holiday as well.
Festivities there include a multi-day festival that includes food, music, arts and crafts, and cultural exhibits in a tree-lined park in the city’s medical district. The Memphis park once contained an equestrian statue and the grave of slave trader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The statue and body were moved in recent years.
Memphis is also home to the National Civil Rights Museum located on the site of the former Lorraine Motel, the former black-owned hotel where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The museum offers free admission on Monday to mark the holiday. At the museum, visitors can listen to recorded speeches by civil rights leaders like King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, and others.
Ryan Jones, the museum’s associate curator, said June 16 should be celebrated in the US with the same emphasis that July 4 receives as Independence Day. “It is the independence of a people who were forced to endure oppression and discrimination because of the color of their skin,” Jones said.
Reflection and Commemoration
The June 16 holiday, Jones said, should also be seen as more than just a day when people attend parties and cookouts. In fact, he said, it’s a time to reflect on the past. “It recognizes the sacrifices of early civil rights veterans between World War I and World War II and of course in modern society, protests, demonstrations, nonviolence, marches,” Jones said.
When Americans gathered to mark the holiday, it was not without incident. In a Chicago suburb late Saturday, one person was killed and 22 injured in a shooting that police are still investigating as of Sunday. A witness said the party in a Willowbrook, Illinois shopping mall parking lot was a June 16 celebration.
The White House released a statement Sunday afternoon, saying: “The President and First Lady are thinking about those killed and injured in the shooting in Illinois last night. We have reached out to offer assistance to state and local leaders in the wake of this tragedy at a Juneteenth community celebration.”
The holiday celebration continues Monday with an appearance by Vice President Kamala Harris on a CNN special with musical guests including Miguel and Charlie Wilson.
Schools and federal buildings will be closed Monday.
(with information from AP)
Americans across the country celebrated Juneteenth over the weekend, a national holiday that commemorates the end of slavery after the Civil War. The celebrations included cookouts, parades, and other gatherings. While many people treated the holiday as a reason to party, others emphasized the need for quiet reflection on the country’s history of violence and oppression towards its black citizens. Controversy surrounding Juneteenth was also highlighted, with some states banning the teaching of its history and meaning. The holiday marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The article also discussed the importance of reflecting on Juneteenth and taking action to achieve justice and equal treatment for African-Americans. Local celebrations and historical significance were highlighted as well, such as the festivities in Memphis and the National Civil Rights Museum. The article concludes with a call to celebrate Juneteenth with the same emphasis as Independence Day, recognizing it as the independence of a people who endured oppression and discrimination based on their skin color.
How has controversy surrounding Juneteenth played out in various states, and why is it important to recognize the historical significance of the holiday while taking action towards achieving justice and equal treatment for African-Americans today
The controversy surrounding Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans, has unfolded differently in various states. Some states have actively embraced the holiday, recognizing the historical significance and taking steps to observe and celebrate it. This includes granting state employees a day off, organizing events, and officially designating it as a holiday.
Other states, however, have been slower to acknowledge or fully embrace Juneteenth. In some cases, this is due to a lack of awareness or understanding of the historical event it commemorates. There are also instances where resistance to recognizing Juneteenth stems from broader reluctance to confront the uncomfortable aspects of America’s history of slavery and racial oppression.
Despite the controversy, it is crucial to recognize the historical significance of Juneteenth. It symbolizes a moment of liberation and acknowledges the struggles African-Americans have endured. By commemorating this event, society acknowledges the systemic injustices faced by African-Americans throughout American history.
However, recognizing the historical significance of Juneteenth is only part of the equation. It is equally important to take action towards achieving justice and equal treatment for African-Americans today. The celebration of Juneteenth should be accompanied by efforts to address racial disparities that persist in various aspects of society, such as education, employment, criminal justice, and healthcare.
By recognizing Juneteenth and actively working towards justice and equal treatment, society can move beyond symbolic gestures and work towards meaningful change. It is through understanding our history and actively confronting the present that we can create a more just and equitable future for all.