The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free." These words of U.S General Gordon Granger on 19th June 1865, spoken on Texas's soil, thrashed the shackles of slavery from the hands of black people. The 19th of June is a date of great significance when one talks about the history of racism in the United States of America. After 250 years of laws that enabled the enslavement of the African Americans, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on the 1st of January, 1863, declaring the enslaved as free. Despite the declaration, not all states abided by the law and continued with this gruesome and horrendous practice. One such state was Texas, where the news regarding the proclamation took two and a half years to reach the slaves. It was on June 19th,1865, when the Union soldiers informed the residents of Texas that slavery had been abolished, and they were free. In 1980, it became a state holiday commemorating the end of slavery in Texas. On the 17th of June, 2021, it was made a federal holiday. Biden, in what he called “one of the greatest honours” of his presidency, signed the bill two days before Juneteenth itself. The first Juneteenth was celebrated with food, dance, and music as the newly freed paraded their progress and autonomy, but as years went by, the celebration and memory diminished. Whitewashing history, refraining from discussing the dark past and withholding historical movements from school educations have contributed to this incognizance. However, since last year’s protests against George Floyd's murder, the significance of Juneteenth is gaining momentum again. These moments of black suffering and loss that were buried are once again being discussed in broad daylight.
This decision to celebrate a day that is meaningful to African Americans is a step towards acknowledging a community that has been discriminated against and mistreated for centuries. The past year has been quite successful in changing the narrative and making people aware that racial injustice isn't a long-forgotten ghost of the past, it's still here. The roots of racism run deep in America, therefore, it is a long battle to ascertain equality. Nevertheless, the national holiday of Juneteenth is a promising step in the direction of terminating racism from its core. It's okay to just start learning about these monsters of the past, and how they continue to walk amongst us today in the form of police brutality and hate crimes against people of colour. However, it's not okay to be silent when you see a racist and unjust act being committed. Calling people out and continuing to have these crucial conversations is the only way forward.
Written by:Shreya Mukherjee, Sunidhi Tyagi, Anupama Chadha.
Edited by: Isabel Williams.