Juneteenth: the road to freedom and equality


Photo by Tasha Jolley on Unsplash

From freedom to citizenship to desegregation, the African American fight for equality prevails.

Maya Adimora, Beyond the Gates editor

Even if you are not African-American, Juneteenth is a significant moment in American history that you should care about because it spells the beginning of equality for racial minorities in the United States.

As the Civil War between the Union and Confederacy entered its third year, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation signaled a turning point. On January 1, 1863, it declared that all enslaved men, women, and children in the Confederacy were free. The American Civil War went from a struggle to keep the United States united as one country to a battle to end slavery.

Although the proclamation failed in practice, its symbolic power is invaluable. If it had not emboldened Lincoln to push toward the nationwide abolishment of slavery, the enslavement of Black people in America would have continued. According to the National Archives, “On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states (three-fourths) ratified it by December 6, 1865.” The 14th and 15th Amendments, which greatly expanded the rights of African Americans, were ratified in 1868 and 1870, respectively.

Today, African Americans regard General Granger’s announcement to Texans on June 19, 1865, as Juneteenth National Independence Day, or Juneteenth. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill officially recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.