I specifically remember the moment about 10 years ago when I first heard of “Juneteenth”. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know what it was. My staff and I were in morning meetings and we always discussed local and national events that could impact care delivery. Things that cause caregivers to miss work such as the fair coming to town, kids being out of school or early release, possible snow days, etc. One of my staff members brought up Juneteenth. I looked at her blankly and she looked at me as if I was an idiot. Then she said, “Charlene! You really don’t know what Juneteenth is?” I confessed and got educated for the better.
What I remembered from my history classes was not the whole story. Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the 13th Amendment made it official in 1865. But now I know more.
Here’s a high-level summary of what I know now. It took two years from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 until the announcement on June 19th in Texas that all slaves in the “rebellious states” were free. Then it wasn’t until Dec 6, 1865, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment that slavery was made illegal in the entire US.
It took the creation of a Federal Holiday almost 160 years later for most of us to acknowledge the need to recognize this significant and important part of our history.
I should have been aware of this but wasn’t. Now I am.
Grateful that finally in 2021, with full bipartisan support, President Biden declared it a National Holiday. This is the first national holiday that has been declared since President Reagan named Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in 1983.