Why Juneteenth is the Quintessential American Holiday | Eastern North Carolina Now

Why Juneteenth is the Quintessential American Holiday

On June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger proclaimed the freedom for Texas slaves in Galveston representing the last release of Black slaves from bondage. For over a century, this event has remained a continuous and widespread celebration in African-American communities across the United States. Only in recent years has the popularity of Juneteenth grown and has become a multi-ethnic and multi-racial celebration and as of 2021 has become a Federal Holiday.

Unfortunately there has been some political controversy that has surrounded the universality of the holiday since the Federal Holiday declaration with some of the left claiming that the holiday should be reserved for African-Americans. On the other side, some conservatives have claimed that we already have too many federal holidays and that a holiday focused on a racial group is wrong. Both camps miss the entire point of Juneteenth and hopefully this article spreads some light on why Juneteenth is such an amazing holiday.

When the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence they included the words We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The Founding Fathers were split on slavery but united on the principles of equality. Roughly half the signers of the Declaration were slaveholders some of whom rather denounced the institution, freed their own slaves and some such as Benjamin Franklin even went on to found the Abolition Society in Philadelphia.

Slavery remained a stain on the United States for years and ultimately led to the split of the Whig party and Northern Democrats leaving the Democratic Party to form the Republican Party. The Republican Party opposed the expansion of slavery and upon the election of Abraham Lincoln, Southern slave-holding Democrats dragged their states into secession which led to the most catastrophic war in United States history. More than 500,000 Americans perished in that war when our population was roughly 10% of what it is today. That number is staggering and shows the dramatic devastation that Democrat-backed secessionists were were willing to go to to maintain the institution of slavery and to fail to live up to the nation's founding.

This is why Juneteenth is so important and so American. Until the last slave was freed after the bloody war that divided the nation, our founding document, The Declaration of Independence, did not live up to its promise that all were created equal. Southern Democrats had insisted for almost 100 years after the founding that Black slaves need not apply to the Declaration of Independence. When Major General Gordan Granger finally announced to Texas slaves that they were free; in that instance the Declaration of Independence was finally decades and decades after its writing finally fulfilled. There is nothing more quintessentially American than a celebration of freedom for all people. And therefore there is nothing more quintessentially American than Juneteenth itself.
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