Many people in the U.S. have a day off from work today, to commemorate the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally got word that they were free (June 19, 1865, aka 2.5 years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.)
President Biden made Juneteenth a national holiday last year, so today is the observed/paid time off date for federal and other employees. But not all employees.
Almost every state in the country recognizes the date in some way, but some stop at a simple proclamation while sticking with their holidays commemorating Confederate events and people.
“I asked many people in my district over the last few days, well over 100 people, if they knew what Juneteenth was and only two of them knew,” said Tennessee State Senator Joey Hensley, who voted against a Juneteenth state holiday proposal. “I just think we’re putting the cart before the horse making a holiday that people don’t know about.”
That is a self-fulfilling prophecy if I ever heard one. As NPR notes, Tennessee “currently designates special observances for Robert E. Lee Day, Confederate Decoration Day, and Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.”
I did not know who that last guy was until I lived in Tennessee. And I still don’t know (and don’t want to know) what Confederate Decoration Day is.
The important thing is that you know about it now and hopefully have a way to commemorate freedom! Let’s remember the people who didn’t know they were free, the people who still aren’t free, and the people who are working to set us all free.