This week marks the Juneteenth holiday. In honor of this important day in American history, several Community Solutions staff members have written about the history of Juneteenth, and every day this week we will share posts about the holiday, the lasting impact of slavery and what structural racism means for Black Americans to this day. Read the first installment of our Juneteenth blog series here.
Since the 1960s, there has been an ebb and flow in public awareness and celebration of Juneteenth. During the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968, in the midst of planning a Poor People’s campaign march in the nation’s capital. That campaign ended two months after his murder — on Juneteenth. King’s tragic assassination and the rallying call for racial equality focused a spotlight on Juneteenth and efforts arose to establish it as a national holiday. Texas became the first state to pass an act in 1980, due to the labor of State Representative Al Edwards. In 1994, the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation was founded by a group of ministers in New Orleans in response to a period in history that resembled the current tumult of police brutality against Black Americans, including the police beating of Rodney King. The growth of the internet and social media from the 1990s until now also contributed to more awareness of the celebration and the history of Juneteenth.
In 2009, Ohio was added to that list, with the passage of Senate Bill 243 recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday
Between 1980 and 2021, 49 states have recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday or holiday observance. In 2009, Ohio was added to that list, with the passage of Senate Bill 243, recognizing it as a holiday observance. Senate Bill 78 was proposed in February 2021 to make Juneteenth a legal holiday in Ohio, which would allow government employees to receive paid leave. However, at the time of this writing, only Texas, New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania officially recognize it as a paid holiday for state employees.
In 2020, we saw a resurgent focus on Juneteenth in a time when Americans began to reckon with the racist history of this country, due in part to increased awareness of state-sanctioned violence against Black Americans. Fatal police encounters during the pandemic, causing the deaths of George Floyd, Ma’Khia Bryant, Breonna Taylor and others, led to public calls for police reforms and sparked efforts to declare Juneteenth a national holiday. In fact, George Floyd grew up in Texas, the birthplace of Juneteenth, and lived in the third ward of Houston. It was here that former slave and minister Reverend Jack Yates led a successful community effort in 1872 to buy land to establish Emancipation Park—a place to celebrate the emancipation of formerly enslaved Texans during Juneteenth. On May 30, 2020, community members held a rally in honor of George Floyd in this park.
In 2020, we saw a resurgent focus on Juneteenth in a time when Americans began to reckon with the racist history of this country
Soon after, former President Donald Trump planned to host a campaign rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of what has been identified as one of the worst historical events of racial violence—the Tulsa Race Massacre. The date of the rally was eventually changed to June 20, but this caused increased awareness of Juneteenth.
Read the first installment of our Juneteenth blog series here.