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Does Juneteenth mark the freedom of African Americans?

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, is celebrated on June 19 every year to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. In 1863, Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, declaring the freedom of more than three million slaves residing in the Confederate States. It took two years for this news to reach African Americans living in Texas. On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger announced federal orders in Galveston, Texas proclaiming the freedom of all enslaved Black people. Juneteenth is celebrated throughout the United States with varying official recognition. It is an official state holiday in only three states viz Texas, Virginia, and New York. Although it marks the end of slavery, it does not mark the end of several atrocities that African Americans face.


Before 1940, African Americans were trapped in poverty; most of them held ill-paid, insecure, manual jobs. Most women were domestic servants who often worked for more than 12 hours a day at meagre wages due to economic desperation. After a profound demographic and economic change, blacks have earned greater equality today. However, many systemic issues still lie unaddressed.


Fadeke Castor, an assistant professor of Religion and Africana Studies, and Nicole N. Aljoe, an associate professor of English and Africana at Northeastern University, spoke about the historical significance of Juneteenth, and its current status in the United States. Castor regards the celebration of Juneteenth by African Americans as a celebration of aspirational freedom. It requires a re-examination and re-imagining of the historical legacy of African Americans to make the system inclusive as racism in any form deteriorates the whole society.


This year Juneteenth attracted more attention, which reflects the need for a generational shift in the status of African Americans. Past movements like Black Lives Matter, Ferguson, the Civil Rights movement, and Black Power were the beginning of this shift. The Black progress over the past half-century has been impressive, but the nation still has many miles to go on the road to true racial equality.


Kriti Vishwakarma