What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth occurs on June 19th and is also known as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, and Liberation Day, This day is a holiday in most of the United States but is not an official American holiday (yet). In 1980, Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday, although it had been celebrated informally since 1865. This day is celebrated to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger apprising federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. He proclaimed all slaves in Texas to be free.
When is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th each year. How to celebrate Juneteenth is up to you and your loved ones, but there have been Juneteenth events all over the country that range from backyard barbeques with family to organized music and speakers. With so much focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and the civil unrest in the country this year, perhaps more will celebrate it than usual.
Juneteenth exists as a counterpoint to the Fourth of July. While the Fourth of July celebrates the arrival of American ideals, Juneteenth stresses just how hard it has been to live up to them. The freedom celebrated on Juneteenth is primarily done so among African-Americans, and that the celebration is rooted in a perception of slavery as something that happened to Black people, rather than something that the country committed.
Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth
Even though the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed slaves over two years prior to this day, the American Civil War had mostly ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April of 1865. Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops. Enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation had been slow and inconsistent.
History of Juneteenth
Then on June 19th, 1865 Union Army 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 hired laborer.”
In one of the most inspiring grassroots efforts of the post-Civil War period, Black men and Black women transformed June 19th from a day of unheeded military orders into their own annual Juneteenth celebration, beginning one year later in 1866.
A common misconception is that Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the United States. This day does mark the emancipation of all the slaves in the Confederacy, but the institution of slavery was still legal and existed in the Union border states well after summer. Slavery in the United States did not officially end until the ratification of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States on December 6, 1865, which claimed to abolish slavery entirely in all of the U.S. states and territories. The Black men, women, and children who heard Granger’s pronouncement so many years ago in Texas were not just slaves being freed, they were a measurement for change in American democracy.
Juneteenth and the War on Drugs
It’s clear that later in the 20th century, our country’s leaders created a war on drugs (largely in part to cannabis prohibition) to further target Black people and other minorities and perpetuate this criminalization. Many agree that the Drug War is the new Jim Crow as it has much of the same harm, with much of the same economic and ideological underpinnings, as slavery itself. Just as Jim Crow responded to emancipation by rolling back many of the newly gained rights of African-Americans, the Drug War is again replicating the institutions and repressions of the plantation. Jim Crow pretended that separate but equal treatment was sufficient even as Blacks faced daily lynchings and every form of very apparent discrimination. The Drug War turns a blind eye to the racial injustice it promotes.
Juneteenth 2020 Celebration and Events
If you are celebrating somewhere other than Portland, here are some other Juneteenth events to check out…
Black and Green Juneteenth Soiree from Angelfire International
Details: June 19th at 7pm EST; Cannabis infused food demos, AfroCanna Art showcase, presentations and recognition of achievements within the cannabis business.
Juneteenth is getting more awareness this year in part because of the recent civil unrest we have been experiencing around the world due to the murder of George Floyd by law enforcement officers 3 weeks ago. Many other state-sanctioned acts of violence against Black and Brown people have been caught on video helping to shine a light on the police brutality that they have been experiencing for decades. With the advent of social media and easily shareable video, police brutality is being highlighted more than ever and Black and Brown people can start to say, I told you so.
People around the world are learning about law enforcement brutality and finally committing to taking action for positive change. Some companies have even given employees paid leave for Juneteenth for the first time ever this year.
Rose City Justice is taking a much needed break today from events and demonstrations after going strong every night for almost a month. To honor Juneteenth this year we will focus on relationship and community building so that we can continue to ramp up our grassroots efforts to effectively make change in Portland, and more broadly across the entire state of Oregon.
Rose City Justice call to action: Make sure to download this graphic and share it on your social media. This is how we will continue to communicate and organize as we build our protests online and start to engage with some of the most powerful digital platforms for organizing and action. It is imperative that you stay engaged so that we keep up this momentum. Remember, allies are important, but we want you to be an accomplice.
Over the next 2 weeks we will be launching and revealing our campaign to reform law enforcement and ensure that cannabis tax revenue is directed to the communities it was promised to when over 800,000 Oregonians voted to legalize marijuana in 2014. We will deploy clear action items for you to engage in and we will successfully make change.
Juneteenth Virtuation: Black and Brown in the Psychedelic Community Details: June 19, 2020 from 7:00 – 10:00 pm on Google Meet; Our main goal for this event is to connect canna-curious, aspiring industry workers & future entrepreneurs to education about career opportunities and overcoming barriers to success from industry leaders while celebrating mental health, food, fun, family, and FREEDOM.
There are a lot of other events happening, many virtually but also in places all around the country this year. Happy Juneteenth!