SO WHAT IS JUNETEENTH?:
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. NOTE: this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
In 1996, the first legislation to recognize “Juneteenth Independence Day” was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.J. Res. 195, sponsored by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). In 1997 Congress recognized the day through Senate Joint Resolution 11 and House Joint Resolution 56.
Activists continue pushing Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Organizations such as the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation are seeking a Congressional designation of Juneteenth as a federal day of observance.
In 2020, state governors of Virginia, New York, and New Jersey signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a paid day of leave for state employees.
Usher is using his platform to talk about the importance of Juneteenth, specifically, why it should be recognized as an official national holiday.
“I proudly join the incredible people and organizations who have been working on this for years, among them the inspiring Opal Lee, a 93-year-old from Fort Worth, Tex,” he tweeted. “Sign the petition she started!”