Juneteenth has long been a day of celebration and remembrance of the centuries-long struggle of African Americans to win freedom from bondage, as well as the ongoing struggle today to end racism and win full liberation. Because of the historic uprising last summer and renewed wave of struggle for Black liberation, the government has now officially recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
The demand for Juneteenth to be recognized as an official national holiday has been raised for decades. Several successes were won at the state and local level over the years thanks to determined organizing, but it took this movement of millions of people to finally force Congress and the president to act. Fourteen of the most hardline racists in the House of Representatives voted against the bill establishing the federal holiday.
The leadership of the Black nation in the history of this country must be recognized in all the struggles — from the abolition of chattel slavery to the fight against Jim Crow segregation, for Civil Rights, the women’s liberation movement, LGBTQ liberation movement and many other working-class battles for justice.
In mainstream history textbooks, the January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation is called the document that “freed the slaves” across the South. However, the Emancipation Proclamation was just a speech until those words were put into action by force — made possible by the decisive intervention of hundreds of thousands of courageous Black soldiers in the Union Army. June 19, 1865 marked the day that Union General Gordon Granger read General Order Number 3 in Galveston, Texas, announcing the end of slavery about two and a half years after the proclamation. There were 250,000 enslaved people in Texas who surely felt a mixture of surprise, joy and empowerment.
But soon after the defeat of slavery in the Civil War came the overthrow of Reconstruction. The Ku Klux Klan was birthed and the former slaveholding class forced the adoption of a new system of sharecropping, mass imprisonments, and Jim Crow laws in order to terrorize and super-exploit Black people.
There has never been a pause in the struggle for Black liberation. From taking over slave ships, to burning plantations, to poisoning masters, to armed struggle against the slavocracy, to self-defense against Klan and police terror, to massive marches for voting rights, to demonstrations and rebellions against the oppression of African American people today, the long march toward freedom continues.
Reparations for the Black nation are key to rebuild devastated communities and to truly begin the struggle for full equality. We must all, in a united fashion, oppose the current moves to turn back voting rights by right-wing politicians, work to end mass incarceration, win affirmative action that will overcome racist hiring practices and obstacles to education, and jail killer cops. Juneteenth is a day for struggle!
This content was originally published here.