For many Americans, June 19 passed without notice. For just as many Americans, the Fourth of July came and went without them questioning all of the celebration.
But, amidst the holidays, racial and social tensions are at a high between Americans.
In recent years, there has been a rise of social and racial controversies, and of those controversies, one has been whether Independence Day should be celebrated due to slavery still being legal on July 4, 1776.
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, landed in Galveston, Texas to announce all slaves in the country were emancipated. The news - just reaching Texas - came over two years following the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation, drafted by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.
Henceforth, “Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States,” according to Juneteenth.com.
The news led to black celebrations of the day, which included family gatherings, barbecues, baseball and other fun festivities.
However, there was a decline of celebration during the early 1900s due to economic and cultural forces, which then allowed for a decline in the understanding of what Juneteenth was. Then, there was a resurgence in the 60s and 70s, and presently, there’s an ideal resurgence of an understanding of Juneteenth with a variety of cultural forces changing and growing.
The holiday, presently, is celebrated in every state except four; according to CNN, it is not a national holiday.
Juneteennth hits on a personal level for black Americans, especially black students, who are learning about what it means to celebrate Juneteenth. Maria Duffy, a sophomore communication major, had no prior knowledge about the holiday up until last year.
“As a child, I never celebrated Juneeteth, I didn’t know what it was,” Duffy said, “Hearing about it was so taboo to me, as if there was a whole new day of celebrating my ancestry but never knowing about it.”
Duffy said it was difficult being raised in social and cultural spheres where white was seen as the “norm,” as she experienced microaggressions from peers.
For art education major Katie Soza, Juneteenth is a day she finds should be celebrated in remembrance of “the freedom of African Americans and the turmoil they have endured,” she said. The Fourth of July is a holiday she sees as a day surrounded by political and racial tension than celebration of freedom.
“I feel like this holiday has become commercialized and Americanized. While it is the celebration of America, I feel like there has become a division between people of color and those who are white; it feels like a white-washed holiday, of something that is supposed to be celebrating a so-called melting pot,” she said.
Independence Day has presently been a source of conflict for black Americans as their ancestors were not free until Juneteenth, and some denounce the federal holiday.
In turn, there has been a backlash about the lack of patriotism, especially during the celebration of the country’s declaration of independence.
With patriotic roots in the past and present knowledge of Juneteenth, Duffy also finds the Fourth of July, now as a young adult, no longer enticing for her.
“I even told a friend that I was no longer excited for the holiday because people claim to love their country but not the people in the country.”
People of color have been recent targets of verbal attacks on social platforms like Twitter or Facebook, being called “unpatriotic” or “anti-American,” when discussing negative sentiments about the country, and even sentiments about the Fourth of July, which is causing a rise in the tension.
“Be the voice for those who do not have one and remind others that some see these holidays as reminders that they are still seen as lesser than and experience discrimantion on a daily,” advised Duffy.
There are a variety of ways that students can show allyship with students of color, especially during holidays like Juneteenth and the Fourth of July, but also educating oneself about the history and social issues occurring in the country.
If you’d like to learn more about Juneteenth, go to https://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm.