On June 19, 1865, Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger publicly read General Order Number 3 in Galveston, Texas. It began: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”
This was the original Juneteenth, considered the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the U.S. Barely familiar outside of communities of color, after more than a century and a half, the time has come for this much-needed celebration of freedom.
Juneteenth falls on a Friday in 2020, amid nationwide Black Lives Matter protests triggered by the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers (with a pandemic in the background). Yesterday, June 17, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared Juneteenth to be a holiday for state employees. Similar actions are likely to follow.
In D.C., it will be a day of renewed and expanded demonstrations, calling not only for justice for Floyd and other African Americans murdered by police but for meaningful steps toward Black equality.
Some of the planned Juneteenth actions: a Strike for Black Lives on Friday morning, organized by the D.C. chapter of Black Lives Matter; a family-friendly Black Mamas March starting at 11 a.m. at the Navy Memorial Plaza; marches under the Movement for Black Lives banner at locations including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Malcolm X Park and Lafayette Square; a go-go concert and march beginning at 4 p.m. at Black Lives Matter Plaza (16th Street NW north of Lafayette Square) presented by the organizers of Moechella and the Million Moe March; a socially distanced Front Yard Festival for Justice in Petworth; and virtual events as part of Don’t Mute DC’s People’s Juneteenth Celebration.