What is Juneteenth

As most of us scratch July 4th off of our future calendars, we set our sights on Juneteenth instead.  Juneteenth is the real freedom act, but was it?  Although slavery was technically abolished on June 19, 1865, a lot of the slaves were’t even notified of their freedom.  One theory for this delay is that the messenger sent to deliver the news to the slaves got murdered. Another is that the slave owners wanted more free labor out of the slaves, so they just didn’t tell them.

A group of former slaves who worked as laborers and servants with the 13th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War, circa 1862| Corbis via Getty Images

Juneteenth is a ( now) national holiday to commemorate the freedom of slaves under the terms of 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. Newly freed black people celebrated the first Juneteenth in 1866 to commemorate liberation- with food, singing, and the reading of spirituals. Some of the food eaten would be soul food cuisine, bar bq meats, and red beverages/desserts. The red represents the blood that was shed by our ancestors for the fight for equality.

The holiday was first celebrated in Texas in 1865, with Texas being the most remote of the slave states. The name of the observance, ‘Juneteenth’ is a combination of June and the nineteenth, the day we celebrate.

Finally, after a worldwide protest to end police brutality, companies like Nike, Target and even Spotify are now recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday giving their employees the day off to observe the holiday.

Target Corp. is closing it’s Minneapolis headquarters Friday and offered time and a half for hourly employees.

Juneteenth Flag will be raised over the Wisconsin State Capitol Beginning at sunrise on Friday, June 19.

As of Thursday morning, change.org petitioned to make Juneteenth a national holiday, obtaining more than 300 signatures. Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday that the Juneteenth flag will be raised over the Wisconsin State Capitol beginning at sunrise on Friday, June 19 in celebration of Freedom Day. Natives of the state are welcome to view the flag at the east entrance of the State Capitol and are encouraged to practice social distancing and wear face masks.

Juneteenth is formally observed in 47 states and the District of Columbia, with Wisconsin joining as the 32nd state to recognize this day in 2009.

The colors of the Juneteenth flag, red, white and blue represent the American heritage, to acknowledge that the slaves were Americans. The star in the middle pays homage to Texas, while the bursting “new star” on the “horizon” of the red and blue fields represents new freedom and new people.

This year in particular Juneteenth is aggressively celebrated as we fight for freedom and equality like never before. A global Black Lives Matter movement has taken the world by storm, and so this Juneteenth we relish in our history, we’re thankful to our ancestors, and we look forward to bearing many Juneteenth celebrations and traditions in the years to come.

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