It looks like the efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday have succeeded as Congress has passed legislation to honor Juneteenth as a national holiday. Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19:
recognizes the day in 1865 that Union General Gordon Granger informed enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas that they would be free under the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed by Abraham Lincoln more than two years prior. The day is also referred to as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Freedom Day.
The Washington Post is reporting:
Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, elevating the day marking the end of slavery in Texas to a national commemoration of emancipation amid a larger reckoning about America’s turbulent history with racism.
It is the first new federal holiday created by Congress since 1983, when lawmakers voted to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day after a 15-year fight to commemorate the assassinated civil rights leader.
Juneteenth has been celebrated at the state level for some time. According to the New York Times:
Many states have recognized Juneteenth for decades, but only some observe it as an official holiday. The holiday is already celebrated in 47 states and the District of Columbia. In the wake of protests against police brutality last year, dozens of companies moved to give employees the day off for Juneteenth, and the push for federal recognition of the day as a paid holiday gained new momentum.
Juneteenth holds a special place in my hometown of Buffalo, New York. The travel site Visit Buffalo Niagara notes:
Juneteenth of Buffalo is one of the longest running Juneteenth celebrations anywhere. Started in 1976 by B.U.I.L.D., a community-based organization, as a culturally relevant alternative to the country’s Bicentennial Celebration, the festival was once held across several blocks of Jefferson Avenue. After only a few years, the festival outgrew its original home and is typically hosted in Martin Luther King Jr. Park, one of Buffalo’s beautiful, Olmsted-designed park.
Despite dozens of Juneteenth celebrations happening around the world, Juneteenth of Buffalo ranks as the third largest in the world according to event organizers. With hundreds of events, vendors, festivities, games, tours and more, the amount of attendees and volunteers that show up to MLK Jr. Park make this one of Buffalo’s largest summer events, too.
Some critics have argued the holidays detracts from Independence Day on July 4, but the reality is that for enslaved persons, there was no freedom achieved in 1776. The bigger criticism of Juneteenth isn’t with the idea of honoring it with a federal holiday, but whether people will see it as some sort of fix-all for societal injustices. Just as changing the name of the Washington Redskins to the Washington Football Team does nothing for the plight of Native Americans, Juneteenth is little more than lip service in the big picture.