NOW Celebrates Juneteenth

Juneteenth, the day that marks of the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until 2021 that it became a federal holiday.

President Biden signed legislation to make June 19th a federal holiday that year, following the renewed demand for attention to be paid following the death of George Floyd the previous summer.  Standing beside him was 93-year old Opal Lee, “the Grandmother of Juneteenth,” who as this NPR story explains, had waged a decades-long fight to make Juneteenth a U.S. holiday.

After decades of working on Juneteenth celebrations in her home state of Texas, with the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society, at the age of 89 she decided to
“spread the word about Juneteenth to everybody.” She set out on a walking campaign from her home in Forth Worth to Washington, D.C.

“I was thinking that surely, somebody would see a little old lady in tennis shoes trying to get to Congress and take notice,” she said. What became annual walks culminated in a trip to the Capitol to deliver a petition signed by 1.5 million Americans supporting a federal holiday.

You can learn more about Opal Lee and about today’s Opal’s Walk 2024 here.  And you can meet Opal Lee in this video from just this past Friday showing her recent Forth Worth homecoming.

Of course, having a federal holiday to commemorate the date that enslaved Africans and African Americans in Texas learned of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation doesn’t mean that white supremacy has been put to rest. Black Americans are continuously mistreated and harmed by systemic racism, discrimination, and denial of opportunity at every level.

Vice President Harris has declared this Juneteenth as one of three National Days of Action on Voting. With a focus on voter engagement, these National Days of Action on Voting aim to ensure all Americans have the information they need to vote, promote voter participation for students, protect election workers, and fight voter suppression laws. Other National Days of Action on Voting are the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 2024, and National Voter Registration Day on September 17, 2024.

Juneteenth has always been a family celebration with an eye on history.  This November, we can change the course of history and keep the spirit of Juneteenth alive by electing more Black women!  And more leaders who will fight for equality.

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