But it wasn’t until then, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and six months after the 13th Amendment, that slaves in Texas were told they were free. Historians are unclear as to the exact reasons for the delay, but the day Texans were told black slaves were free was June 19th — “Juneteenth.”
Since that time, there has been slow, but steady progress toward making June 19 a national day of observance (not a paid holiday). The present leader of the Juneteenth movement, Rev. (Dr.) Ron Myers, writes:
“We hope President Obama will acknowledge Juneteenth as the National Day of Reconciliation and Healing from the legacy of enslavement. Congress unanimously passed seven joint resolutions recognizing Juneteenth. We are hopeful that Congress will finally enact legislation to establish the 19th of June on all calendars as America’s 2nd Independence Day.”
The work of Dr. Myers and other Juneteenth Day proponents has resulted the recognition of the date by 42 states. Through the efforts of Representative William Crawford, Indiana was the 34th state to recognize the day, and Juneteenth celebrations have been or are being held throughout Indiana, including Anderson. It should be noted that Juneteenth celebrations are not intended to substitute for the July 4th holiday.
Throughout the states, these celebrations usually include events such as parades, community gatherings, special church services, backyard barbecues, or other activities that bring the community together in the spirit of unity and racial reconciliation. I expect these celebrations will become even more commonplace in the coming years as well as newsworthy.
Incidentally, through the efforts of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, today a statue of Frederick Douglass will be unveiled in Washington, D.C., at the Capitol Visitor Center. The Douglass statue will be the fourth African American monument at the Center. His speech, “What to the American Slave is the 4th of July?” will be read at the unveiling ceremony.