Do you know what day it is?
That's right, it's June 19th, and that means it's time to celebrate Juneteenth!
But what is Juneteenth, you ask?
Well, let me tell you.
Picture this: You're free and you don't even know it yet.
Sounds a bit like the plot of a sitcom, doesn't it? Well, that was the reality for many African Americans in Texas in 1865.
Enter Juneteenth, the official day of emancipation celebrations, and the seemingly never-ending struggle to get a day off work to attend barbecues!
Juneteenth Originated in 1865 When Major General Gordon Granger Delivered a Message in Galveston
It all began on June 19th, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger rolled up to Galveston, Texas with some news for all enslaved Black Americans: "By the way, y'all are free!"
Okay, maybe he didn't say it quite like that, but upon reading General Order No. 3, the reality set in that the enslaved people of Texas were now free, even though the Emancipation Proclamation had technically granted them freedom two and a half years prior.
Talk about being late to the party!
Now, you may be thinking, "Wow, two years is a long time. What took them so long?"
Well, the answer is a little complicated.
First of all, Texas was pretty far away from the rest of the country, so news didn't always travel quickly. Plus, some slave owners tried to keep the news from their slaves, either because they didn't believe it themselves or because they wanted to squeeze a few more months of labor out of their workers. (We know, we can't believe it either.)
But once the news finally did reach the enslaved people of Texas, they celebrated like there was no tomorrow!
They danced, sang, and feasted on BBQ, which has become a staple of modern-day Juneteenth celebrations. And who can blame them? After all those years of hard work and oppression, they deserved a good party.
Funny Asides and Analogies: What Do Amazing Emancipation Celebrations Have in Common with Your Favorite Sitcom?
Despite the historical significance, Juneteenth has a lighter side that can be compared to your favorite sitcom.
Much like how a sitcom showcases a group of friends navigating life's twists and turns, Juneteenth is about communities coming together to navigate a new reality of freedom.
Plus, who doesn't love a good barbecue as the season finale?
Federal Holiday Context: Just Like How Rome Wasn't Built in a Day, Juneteenth Recognition Took Some Time
Slow and steady wins the race – an adage that perfectly sums up the battle for making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Though it began as a Texas state holiday in 1980, it wasn't until June 17th, 2021 when President Joe Biden signed Juneteenth into law as the 12th federal holiday.
And again, tardiness seems to be a recurring theme. Better late than never, right?
The first Juneteenth celebrations were held in Texas in 1866, just a year after the news of freedom arrived. They were organized by freed slaves, who saw it as an opportunity to celebrate their newfound freedom and to remember their struggles. The celebrations included parades, speeches, and picnics, and over time, they spread to other states.
Despite its widespread popularity, Juneteenth was not widely recognized by governments until the 20th century. In Texas, the holiday was often celebrated by Black communities but was not recognized by the state government until decades later. This was in part due to the segregationist policies of the time, which prevented Black citizens from participating fully in civic and political life.
In the mid-20th century, civil rights leaders and activists began to push for the recognition of Juneteenth as a state holiday.
One of the most prominent figures in this effort was Al Edwards, a Texas state representative who introduced legislation to recognize the holiday in 1979. Edwards, who was Black, saw the holiday as an important way to honor the contributions and sacrifices of Black Americans throughout history.
The bill faced some opposition from conservative lawmakers who argued that the holiday was unnecessary or divisive. However, it ultimately passed and was signed into law by Texas Governor Bill Clements in 1980. The holiday was recognized as an official state holiday, making Texas the first state to do so.
Since then, Juneteenth has become an important part of Texas' cultural heritage, with celebrations and events taking place throughout the state each year. It is also recognized as a national holiday, with many other states and communities holding their own celebrations.
Understanding the Name 'Juneteenth': Juneteenth Is No Tongue-Twisting Holiday Name! It Simply Represents the Combination of 'June' and 'Nineteenth'
You might be wondering, "Who came up with the name Juneteenth?"
As it turns out, the name is as straightforward as a dad joke at a family barbecue.
The portmanteau of "June" and "nineteenth" is exactly what it sounds like – because a creative way of saying the word "emancipation" wasn't working for the marketing team.
And So, We Continue to Celebrate and Remember… With Laughter and Barbecue
Today, Juneteenth is going strong.
It's recognized as an official state holiday in Texas and is celebrated in many other parts of the country as well.
It's a time to reflect on the struggles of the past and to honor the resilience and strength of Black Americans. And though it has transformed into a beacon of hope and progress, it's also a time to recognize that there is still work to be done to achieve true equality for all.
So, if you're looking for a reason to celebrate this month, and a federally recognized day off (finally!), look no further than Juneteenth.
Put on your dancing shoes, fire up the grill, and let's honor the legacy of those who fought for freedom and justice.
And if anyone asks, just tell them it's a celebration of freedom, BBQ, and Black culture – because that's what it is.