Juneteenth Should Be a National Holiday

Image of Sports/Newscom via ZUMA

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

From yesterday:

In the wake of the nationwide outcry over the killing of George Floyd, bipartisan calls have amplified to name Juneteenth — June 19, which commemorates the end of slavery — a federal holiday. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, teased the bill Thursday night, telling MSNBC, “Together with my colleagues Cory Booker, Tina Smith, and Ed Markey, we are proposing that Juneteenth be a national holiday. And we are dropping that bill saying that Juneteenth should be a national holiday.”

This is a great idea, and the more I hear about it the better it sounds. I’ve heard arguments that Juneteenth is a little bit arbitrary, since it commemorates only the day that Texas finally announced the Emancipation Proclamation, and that instead we should celebrate the passage of the 13th Amendment, which is when slavery in the United States was truly abolished. But this is an argument that, even if it’s offered in good faith, is all head and no heart, yet another example of white people trying to hijack a Black movement. The whole history of Juneteenth is interesting, but the key to it is that Black Americans celebrate it and that’s the day that many of them want to observe.

Beyond that, I like the coincidental placement of Juneteenth shortly before July 4th. Both are important and both are starting points: July 4th is the start of the long road to democracy, which took nearly 200 years to finally reach full enfranchisement; Juneteenth is the start of the long road to Black freedom, which is at 155 years and counting. That gives us a two-week period that commemorates the history of both of these things, which is a far more effective opportunity for education than the current method, which is usually to invite Black writers to write July 4th op-eds about how Independence Day is really Independence for Whites Day. Placing Black writers into this position is unfair to them and unfair to history. Here’s hoping this bill passes the Senate unanimously.

And for CEOs and HR departments who complain that company policy allots only 10 days off and this means getting rid of some other holiday, just suck it up and give your workers 11 days off. It won’t kill you.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate