As fights for racial justice continue across the country in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Riah Milton, Dominique Fells, and other Black Americans, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) will introduce a bill establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday in the House, and Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tina Smith (D-MN) will introduce one in the Senate.
The tradition of Juneteenth is already recognized by many Black communities. Every year, the holiday is celebrated on June 19th, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, it did not free all slaves and was not enforced in Confederate states. It was not until June 19th, 1865 that Union Army soldiers arrived in Texas with the news that the Civil War was over and that all slaves were now free. To this day, many Black communities commemorate Juneteenth with festivals, parties, parades, religious services, music, and readings from the Emancipation Proclamation as well as important Black texts. However, the holiday is still scarcely recognized by schools, workplaces, and non-Black communities.
Urge your members of Congress to support the designation of Juneteenth as a federally recognized holiday. As Americans continue to demand protections for people of color, and Black individuals in particular, this symbolic step would recognize the suffering inflicted on these communities throughout the history of the United States. A national acknowledgement of Juneteenth would honor this traumatic past with education in schools, a paid day off for families to observe the holiday, and a national willingness to confront the longstanding racism of our country with an eye toward progress.