Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Monday, June 20, 2022, is Juneteenth National Independence Day in America

Last year, President Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, creating a federal holiday to commemorate Juneteenth. This is the first federal holiday approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. This year, because the holiday falls on Sunday, it will be observed on Monday, June 20. Government offices will be closed. Retail businesses, for the most part, will be open, just as they stay open for several of the federal holidays. As for non-retail business, the holiday is still too new to know who will and will not observe it.

On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. This, however, was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January, 1863. This day, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has become a day for African Americans to celebrate not only their freedom, but their history, culture and achievements.

"On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice. And, we celebrate the centuries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility. That work has been led throughout our history by abolitionists and educators, civil rights advocates and lawyers, courageous activists and trade unionists, public officials, and everyday Americans who have helped make real the ideals of our founding documents for all."

-- A Proclamation on Juneteenth Day of Observance, 2021, President Joseph Biden, June 18, 2021.

"Juneteenth reminds us of both the unimaginable injustice of slavery and the incomparable joy that must have attended emancipation. It is both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our Nation’s unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness…. This Juneteenth, we commit, as one Nation, to live true to our highest ideals and to build always toward a freer, stronger country that values the dignity and boundless potential of all Americans."

-- Presidential Message on Juneteenth, 2020, President Donald J. Trump

The original of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, is in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The final proclamation was first printed in January 1863, as a two-page broadsheet with the printed signatures of Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward. Later, a limited edition of forty-eight copies was printed. They were signed in pen by Lincoln, Seward, and Lincoln's secretary, John G. Nicolay, the copies were donated to raise money for the group that later became the Red Cross. About twenty known copies of the document have survived in public and private hands. Number 32 of this 48-copy edition is at the Boston Athenaeum on Beacon Street. I had the great pleasure of viewing it at a January 20, 2009, Athenaeum event to watch the Inauguration of President Barack Obama.

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