What is Juneteenth, and Why is it Celebrated?
Maybe you've seen recent headlines about Juneteenth, or heard it mentioned on the news - but you're not really sure what it is. What is Juneteenth all about? How is it being celebrated in Utica?
The name comes from the date June 19th. Juneteenth is also known as 'Freedom Day' or 'Emancipation Day.' The celebration commemorates the emancipation of slaves on June 19, 1865. According to the New York Times, "on June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln."
(To read a more thorough account of what happened after Granger's proclamation, see this account from PBS.)
The original celebration became an annual event, which grew over the years. This year, in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the event has taken on even more significance.
Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo declared Juneteenth a paid holiday for all state employees. Several other businesses have done the same, including Twitter, Nike, the NFL, Best Buy, and Target have done the same.