Juneteenth-Celebrate Freedom!

Today is Juneteenth, an American holiday that started on June 19, 1865. Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863. The Civil War was taking place during that time and it was not until General Robert E. Lee surrendered in April 1865, that the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished. News of the surrender did not reach Texas until May 1865. Juneteenth’s prominence started when the U.S. state of Texas announced the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865, by Executive Order of the United States, when in fact, slaves had already been declared freed two years earlier. It is estimated at the time there were 250,000 slaves in Texas. While there was much celebration of enslaved people initially, they faced many years of struggle to gain equality status they deserve.

Juneteenth has been celebrated informally, primarily in Texas and it was established as a Texas state holiday in 1980. Yes, that’s right, over 100 years later. Other states have also started adopting the holiday and currently all but five states now recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday. Denver held a Juneteenth music festival this past weekend in the Five Points neighborhood. More traditional Juneteenth celebrations might include African spirituals such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” or the “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, often considered the Black/ African-American National Anthem.

Unfortunately, there is still illegal slavery taking place here and in other parts of the world via sex trafficking and other forms of forced labor. It is important that we do our part to bring equality, justice and freedom to all. Juneteenth is a very important day in the history of our country.

Wendy Saathoff

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