June 19th, 2020
ICNA CSJ sends best wishes for a memorable celebration to all those commemorating Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, signed a document on January 1, 1863, known as the Emancipation Proclamation. The document read in part that, “All persons held as slaves in rebellious states…” (11 Confederate southern states that broke away from the union over the issue of slavery and white supremacy) “…henceforward shall be free.” These Confederate states waged a traitorous war against the United States government from April 12, 1861, until their total surrender on April 9, 1865. This bloody war killed more than 620,000 men compared to 644,000 in all other wars combined. Two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that legally ended slavery in Confederate states and two months after the end of the Civil War, enslaved Blacks continued to forcibly labor on Texas plantations. On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas that proclaimed that “…all slaves were now free.” June 19, 1865, was designated in Texas and subsequently across the nation as Juneteenth in recognition of the “freedom” of enslaved Blacks in the 11 Confederate states. Newly freed Blacks in Texas also called that day in June Liberation Day, Jubilee Day, and Freedom Day.
Annual Juneteenth celebrations started in 1866. The celebrations were originally community-centered affairs based in Black churches in Texas. During the 1920s, the Juneteenth gatherings took on a more secular celebratory nature as the events tended to be held outside of churches. Beginning in the 1930’s African Americans across the nation started to organize Juneteenth celebrations. By the 1950s Juneteenth events could be found in all of the major cities in the United States. The events of the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and 1960s tended to overshadow the celebration of Juneteenth across the country, particularly in the South. The celebration experienced a resurgence in popularity during the 1970s up to the present day.
The Commonwealth of Virginia recently acknowledged this day as a paid government holiday. Annually, June 19th serves as an opportunity to commemorate the basic truth that all men and women were created equal. In light of the current events that have situated in America, this day of celebration comes at a time of hardship and injustice. While we celebrate the end and abolishment of slavery, it is important for us to realize that institutionalized oppression still exists in America. It is our job not only as Americans but as Muslims to stand up with and for the African American community. For the last few years, concerted efforts have been made to designate Juneteenth, June 19, as a national holiday in the country by the US Congress and Senate. The present climate in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd and Rashard Brooks presents perhaps the most opportune time for this effort to make Juneteenth a national holiday to come to fruition.
ICNA Council for Social Justice (ICNA CSJ)