Juneteenth Now a Federal Holiday

The new federal holiday recognizes the end of slavery in 1865. But activists worry the new holiday is an empty gesture if it isn’t accompanied by meaningful racial progress. 

Feven Gerezgiher reports:


Thursday, President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. Minneapolis City Council made it a paid city holiday earlier in May. Councilmember Andrea Jenkins said Juneteenth was important to highlight given the inequities uncovered over the past year.


“I really hope that people are taking the time to reflect on, you know, the very dark chapter in American history that was slavery,” said Jenkins. “And then subsequently, reflect on all of the work that we must continue to do.”


The Emancipation Proclamation passed in 1863. But it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom. Slavery would not be abolished, however, until 6 months later with the ratification of the 13th amendment.


Today, Juneteenth is celebrated with community-led programming like black-owned bazaars, sweet potato pie jubilees, and local storytelling.


With the broader recognition of the holiday, writer and doctoral student Ebony Adedayo is concerned that Juneteenth will be co-opted by capitalists, turning it into another MLK Day. 


“These symbols of our resistance, corporations and organizations get their hands around and weaken and reduce them to soundbites that don’t even honor black people,” said Adedayo. 


She pointed to the pushback in some states against critical race theory being taught in schools.


“We don’t want to talk about structural racism, we don’t want to talk about the root causes of these things. But we want these holidays and these festivals and these snapshots that show that America is making progress, even though we’re not.” 


Adedayo said she will be commemorating Juneteenth, but she will continue to resist and to fight against racism all year long.


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