The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution ended the legal practice of slavery in the United States in 1865. President Abraham Lincoln had previously issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared “ that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free.". However, real freedom was not achieved that day.
On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas and the army announced the 250,000 people who were enslaved were now freed. It slowly, but surely became our Second Independence Day. The day when we as a nation began a process, not yet completely to end and heal the scars of hundreds of years of legal slavery in North America and especially in our country.
July 4th may have been the day when we declared our independence from England, but this is the day we began the process of making all of us free. Celebrations of Juneteenth began primarily in Texas and the South, mostly as an unofficial holiday. Shortening the name June 19th to Juneteenth. My Mother In Law decades ago told me the stories of employers she worked for giving African American employees the day off with pay. She lived and worked in Texas and it was the first US state to make it an state holiday in 1980.
By 2002 that had grown to eight states. Ohio began celebrating it in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2021 when it became a paid holiday. It became an official Federal Holiday on June 17, 2021.
Our office is closed on Juneteenth. In part because all of the agencies we deal with our closed. But it is also is to give our staff a chance to remember that not all of our clients, and some of our families' ancestors as well, may have been declared free on July 4, 1776, but a sizable group of others had to wait until June 19, 1865. And we still have work to do to atone for the sins and repair the wounds of the sin of slavery in our nation.
So we’re closed that day, but we’ll be back standing up for all working and disabled people in Northwest Ohio, and beyond, on June 20th.
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