On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas. Once there, Granger announced the end of the Civil War and the institution of slavery. His news had the affect of emancipating the remaining enslaved individuals in Texas.
The date of his arrival, June 19th, became “Juneteenth.” Juneteenth became a celebration of gained freedom and a way to honor the sacrifices and contributions of Black Americans. While central to certain Black communities, the holiday labored in relative obscurity for broad swaths of the nation until the last decade.
In 2021, Juneteenth was officially declared a federal holiday. Awareness has only increased since then.
Conservatives should freely embrace the celebration of Juneteenth. The holiday is not a rival to Independence Day. It is a celebration of a more fulsome and equal application of the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.
Our nation was founded on high-minded, beautiful principles. When we broke our bonds with England, we declared that all men were created equally. We said people were endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. Among them, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In practice, we failed to live up to this vision. The sin of slavery not only serves as a blight on our nation’s history, but reinforces to this day so much of the racial distrust, division and tension we experience.
Juneteenth marked a step toward fulfilling the shared promise of our nation–that all people, of all colors and creeds, have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Recognizing the holiday comports with the American tradition of celebrating independence. Juneteenth is a reminder of the need to be vigilant in restoring and maintaining the delicate ties that knit us together as a people. It is emblematic of the imperfect, and at times slow, march toward justice. It is an opportunity to listen and learn.