NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Last week, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill making Juneteenth a state holiday, and this week, the both the U.S. Senate in Washington and the House of Representatives also passed a bill in favor of a national holiday.
Many parts of the country have celebrated Juneteenth, but what is the significance of the day?
Dr. Sharlene Sinegal DeCuir, History Department Chair at Xavier University says, “There’s absolutely no way that we can teach American history and only teach the best parts of American history. You have to teach all parts of American history and let the facts lay where they lay.”
Included in that history is the date June 19th, 1865. Some of the bad in that history is that in spite of the Civil War ending months earlier, slavery still existed in our country.
Dr. Eva Baham, History Professor at Dillard University stated, “About 2000 Union troops, under the leadership of General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Bay and there they announced and read a proclamation that said in essence that the war was over, slavery was ended and that the people were free.”
That happened a full 2 years after President Lincoln outlawed slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation, but the country was still at war and southern stated did not comply unless an area fell to The Union.
“As what happened in New Orleans, under Admiral Farrugat. As a confederate area was conquered, then enslaved people flocked to the Union areas. New Orleans fell very quickly in the Civil War so you have a lot of people moving there who were essentially free,” stated Baham.
The celebration of Juneteenth has been organic and just as the exact date of liberation for Blacks was different in cities around the country, June 19th is symbolic of their freedom.
According to Baham, “It was originally a Texas holiday. As word spread and as Texans spread out in other parts of the country, particularly you see it up through the Midwest, as they moved that direction, post Civil War and into the early 20th Century, you will see them celebrating it in that way. So they took the celebration with them.”
Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Independence Day are but a few names given to the modern celebration of Juneteenth and the manner of tribute caries across the U.S.
“You have many different people of different ethnicities that celebrate Juneteenth, it’s not just African American, and at many of the Juneteenth celebrations, people are talking about the progress that African Americans have made, but also but they’re also talking about the progress that continues to be made,” said DeCuir.