Juneteenth. It’s a ‘date’ that many may not have heard of before, especially within white communities, but it’s been familiar to those in black communities—for a very long time. Juneteenth falls on June 19, which is the anniversary of the day, in 1865, in which federal orders were read to the final slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were now free. That is months after the Civil War was officially concluded.
Last week, the NFL announced that it would begin to officially recognize Juneteenth as a league holiday, in accordance of which, team offices will be closed. This came a day after the league committed $250 million over the next 10 years to funding programs working toward social justice that address racial inequality.
“This year, as we work together as a family and in our communities to combat the racial injustices that remain deeply rooted into the fabric of our society, the NFL will observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 19th as a recognized holiday and our league offices will be closed”, Roger Goodell said in a statement. “It is a day to reflect on our past, but more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future”.
Needless to say, slavery is the darkest chapter in our nation’s history (and that of many other nations), a practice in which we—meaning the country) made the decision that African bought from the continent and brought here against their will were not, in fact, human beings, but rather property to be possessed.
I recently learned that my own hometown played an instrumental role in the slave trade in the United States as a key port city in the 1600s and 1700s. Many slaves came through its harbor to be bought and sold to the highest bidder.
The 4th of July is the great American celebration, but for a large percentage of the population, the liberation symbolized in that day meant nothing, because it didn’t apply to them. Juneteenth is a second liberation, and I believe it should be nationally recognized and honored as such.
Truth be told, whether it’s a token or symbolic gesture or not, I really don’t care, because it’s still going to be done. Black people have been honoring Juneteenth for well over a century, even if it has been receiving increasing recognition in more recent years. in fact, at some level, nearly every state recognizes or observes it in some form or fashion, even if it is not formally a holiday.