NORTHERN VIRGINIA (WDVM) — Juneteenth is now a federal holiday — President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made the announcement on Friday.
The bill to make Juneteenth a holiday unanimously passed in the Senate and passed 415 to 14 in the House before the president signed it into law. The 14 against the bill were all Republicans.
Juneteenth originated in Galveston, TX when freedom finally came to the last of the enslaved African-Americans in southern states in 1865, years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Jay Gillespie, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Lord Fairfax Community College, says this is a time to not only celebrate but to remember America’s history.
“I think it’s just a way to, obviously, you know, celebrate the end of slavery, but I think it’s also a way for people to just kind of be reminded that most of our history, we had millions of people who were not even defined as human beings,” said Gillespie.
He says throughout the years, the celebrations of Juneteenth ebbed and flowed. Times of critical social justice moments like the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement triggered change.
“In the late 60s and 70s, kind of part of the civil rights movement, it started to become more popular again,” said Gillespie. “But it wasn’t until, you know, really recently, in the wake of, you know, black lives matter and the George Floyd incident that you start seeing states beefing up official state recognition.”
As Americans across the country learn about and recognize Juneteenth — some for the first time — Loudoun County Public Schools are making national headlines over its debate on teaching critical race theory in their classrooms.
“When you are basically telling people what to think instead of presenting facts and evidence and ideas, and then truly letting the students come up with their own ideas but to, you know, ban ideas and theories just because you don’t like them, even though the in academia, these theories are accepted as valid,” said Gillespie.
For more information on the history and legacy of Juneteenth, click this link here.