Holidays and traditions remind people of the importance of celebrating and enjoying life’s journey, while connecting with family, friends and the community. It is a way to remember the past, comfort those in the present and uplift future generations. When it comes to observing holidays, the question at hand is: Should holidays with negative connotations be celebrated and honored?
Confederate History Month, celebrated by seven Southern states, was established in 1994. Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves declared April as Confederate Heritage Month in early March of this year.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson wrote on Twitter, “Unnecessary.” Thompson is Mississippi’s only African-American congressman. Confederate History Month is considered to be controversial considering its ties to secession from the Union and its opposed abolition of slavery.
Decades later, Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, which commemorates the end of slavery, is just now being recognized as a national holiday. While this is a step in the right direction, this shows that there is still much work to be done when it comes to systemic racism and racial inequalities.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued January 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln, it did not completely free those 4 million men, women and children who were enslaved. The document only applied to those enslaved in Confederate states who were in rebellion against the Union and did not recognize its laws.
It was not until June 19, 1865, when African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned that they had been freed. In response, they celebrated by singing spirituals and holding prayer meetings. The 13th Amendment was adopted that December, officially abolishing slavery.
Today, Juneteenth is celebrated by African-Americans throughout the United States. Family gatherings, music festivals and educational events are a few ways in which many people celebrate this monumental holiday. The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act passed through the Senate on June 15, 2021, making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Fourteen lawmakers in the House of Representatives, all members of the GOP, voted against the Juneteenth bill.
Congressman Thompson wrote on Twitter on Friday, “At a time when Critical Race Theory is being challenged, it’s never been more critical to recognize the historical inequalities in our nation.”
Many say Confederate symbols and monuments express a deeply rooted racist past, while supporters disagree’ they believe that it is a way to remember their history. The adoption of Juneteenth as a national holiday expresses progress within the United States, but again, there is more work to be done in order to rebuild unity and a sense of community and justice for all.