Posted on December 2, 2009

Juneteenth Acknowledged As Legal Holiday in Wisconsin, But Does It Matter to the Rest of America?

"Montie," ChicagoNow, December 2, 2009

At a claims company I worked for several years ago, I took Juneteenth off. My African-American boss at the time supported the idea, but she didn’t take the day off as well. She also continuously asked me when was the day again and what was the day for.

Over the years, I’ve run into several other people who have no idea what Juneteenth is. So when I received an email today about a Chicago Tribune article (courtesy of Associated Press) stating that Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday, I wondered how many people would actually take advantage of that.

How many people would find out the significance of June 19, 1865, the day when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, and there was an announcement that the Civil War was over and slavery had ended.

According to the Chicago Tribune report, Milwaukee has celebrated Juneteenth since the 1970s. {snip} But on an intimate social level, I’d be hard-pressed to find many African-Americans who do. I see African-Americans go above and beyond to celebrate the Fourth of July, even though it was not an Independence Day for us and we were still slaves during that time.


But back to African-American history, Dr. King’s birthday, which is a national holiday, is just another day off to some, and Black History Month can come and go without me seeing too many people take such interest in it the way other common holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are celebrated.

I don’t know whether it’s lack of interest, lack of knowledge or the “get over it” mentality that makes some African-Americans in general so blahzay [sic] about Juneteenth, Black History Month or African-American history in general. I blame part of it on the textbooks used in schools. The shoddy paragraphs on African-American history out of an entire book surely don’t explore the issues, and the fact that African-American history and African-American literature are still electives or not taught at all at most colleges and universities but British Literature or “American” Literature, which usually does not have much minority history incorporated in it, are required to graduate is blatantly disrespectful.


Wisconsin has joined more than 30 other states by declaring Juneteenth a legal holiday.

Juneteenth–observed on June 19–commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and that slaves were free.


Wisconsinites have commemorated the day since the 1970s, the governor’s office said Tuesday.


In addition to more than 30 states legally recognizing the holiday, it has been exported to various parts of the world. Many African-American service people and others celebrate the day with events abroad.