On June 19th, 1865, the American Civil War Union army general Gordon Granger, proclaimed that all enslaved people in the U.S. state of Texas were now free. Even though President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation proclamation in 1863, which stated that “all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free,” Texas slaveowners kept this Executive Order from their slaves until June 19th, 1865. It’s been 155 years since Juneteenth was declared an unofficial American holiday in 1980 in Texas, but lingering racism and police brutality against Black people is still rampant today.
In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement formed after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in 2012. Beyond a hashtag, the work being done to seek justice for Black people killed by police has unfortunately increased as more lives have senselessly been taken away. In 2014, it was Erica Garner and Michael Brown. In 2020, it was Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. And, lest we forget, the Black people who were killed when no cameras were rolling. Plus, what about the deaths of Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch who were found hanging from a tree but were claimed a probable suicide even though a modern-day lynching could very well have occurred?
We’ve come so far, yet we’re still so far as a nation from collectively becoming allies and ant-racists and protecting all people no matter their skin color. As the Black Lives Matter movement picks up steam with each Black death at the hands of police, June 19, 2020 still holds remnants of the era of slavery and Jim Crow laws. Still, forty-seven states and many employers, including SheKnows’ parent company PMC, recognize Juneteenth as a holiday to commemorate this victorious day.