Juneteenth is sometimes also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It celebrates the official end of slavery in the United States.
Juneteenth, June 19, is a federal holiday. In Berea, City Hall will be closed and city workers, except for essential police and fire, will have the day off. City Council’s meeting will be moved to Tuesday, May 20.
A bit of history: In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring an end to slavery. But word was slow to reach some parts of the United States. In fact, it took 2 ½ years for Texas to learn of the Proclamation when Army troops delivered the news. That date was June 19, 1865. The next year, Galveston, Texas, commemorated the day as Juneteenth, a celebration of freedom. Juneteenth is a combination of June and nineteen.
Juneteenth has been celebrated in various communities across the country ever since and in 2021, it was declared a federal holiday.
There are Juneteenth stamps at the U.S. Post Office. You can purchase Juneteenth commemorative clothing and other items online. The Juneteenth flag is red, yellow and green, representing the blood, soil and prosperity of Africa and its people.
Juneteenth is more than a Black holiday. It does recognize the progress African-Americans have made since 1865 in striving for better education, better jobs and most of all fighting for equality. But it’s a time for all us – no matter our ethnic background, race or religion – to look for ways to improve the lives of everyone.
The Civil Rights Movement was a watershed moment for the United States, but there is still much work to be done – in the community and at home. We can all observe Juneteenth in small ways and large.
Patronize a black-owned business. Read about Black history or a book by a Black author. The Berea Branch Library will have a display. Watch a TV show or rent a movie with a Black theme. Educate your children about the role Blacks have played in America’s story – its history and economy. If you hear a discriminatory remark, say something.
Acceptance and recognition begin with small steps. And that leads to larger strides toward equality.
Let’s all celebrate Juneteenth – a day that marked a new beginning for Blacks and for America. It reminds us of a past that America cannot be proud of but it also is a call to make sure we continue to remedy that.