A day to remember

Why are you against the celebration of Juneteenth in Virginia or throughout the nation? [The Odd Dominion, March 13.]

Juneteenth, or the “19th of June”, recognizes June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, when Union General Gordon Granger announced freedom for all slaves in the Southwest. This was the last major vestige of slavery in the United States following the end of the Civil War. This occurred more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Upon the reading of General Order No. 3 by General Granger, the former slaves celebrated jubilantly, establishing America’s second Independence Day Celebration and the oldest African-American holiday observance.

Juneteenth is now recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in 23 states. These states include Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Delaware, Idaho, Alaska, Iowa, California, Wyoming, Missouri, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia and Washington State. In 2003, the District of Columbia passed legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a district holiday observance. Many more states, including South Dakota, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Montana, Wisconsin, Maryland, Mississippi and Vermont have recognized Juneteenth through state legislative resolutions, Gubernatorial proclamations and current state holiday observance legislation.

Thousands of petitions have been forwarded to the White House urging President Bush to make Juneteenth a National Holiday Observance and to establish a National Juneteenth Commission to provide advice on how the annual observance of Juneteenth Independence Day can promote racial reconciliation and healing, bringing all Americans together through the celebration of our common bond of freedom. President Bush has yet to personally respond to letters from national Juneteenth leaders.

So, why the negative comments about Juneteenth in Virginia? What’s wrong with all Americans celebrating our common bond of freedom on the “19th of June” and the “4th of July”?
Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D

Dan Catalano replies: In no way did I mean to imply that Virginia should not designate June 19 as an official day of celebration and remembrance. I was merely pointing out the irony of having the “Juneteenth” holiday legislation co-sponsored by Delegate Frank Hargrove, who famously said that Virginia’s black population should just “get over” slavery. Rest assured that I wholeheartedly support the celebration of Juneteenth, and consider it one of the all-time best-named holidays, right up there with Canada’s “Boxing Day” and the Kingdom of Bhutan’s “Blessed Rainy Day.”

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