The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Juneteenth Becomes a Federal Holiday

Jun 21, 2021

Juneteenth, or June 19, became an official federal holiday when President Biden signed it into law. June 19, 1865 was the day that Union troops came to Galveston, Texas and freed the last slaves at the end of the Civil War.

Over the years, some state legislatures recognized Juneteenth, but never as an official holiday—until now. After millions of people took to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd and to protest against racist police brutality, politicians in eight states decided to make Juneteenth an official holiday.

Now the federal government has followed suit. The politicians in the Senate and the U.S. House passed the law recognizing Juneteenth in a matter of just two days. It was not surprising to see the Democrats vote for Juneteenth. For many years, the Democrats have needed the votes of the black population to get themselves elected. But surprisingly, the Republicans also voted for Juneteenth, unanimously in the Senate and all but 14 Republicans in the House. This is the same Republican Party which has been pushing racist hatred and division during the Trump presidency and after. Even while voting for Juneteenth, this same Republican Party is today passing laws to limit the voting of the black population and to stop schools from teaching the truth about racism in this country. What got into the minds of these racist fools? Who knows? Maybe they see some political advantage. But regardless, Juneteenth does not belong to the politicians of either party. Juneteenth belongs to the black population and their struggle for freedom.

Millions of slaves freed themselves during the Civil War by leaving the plantations and crossing the battle lines into the camps of the Union army. Almost 200,000 black men, most of them former slaves, joined the Union army and helped turn the tide in the war against slavery. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th amendment ending slavery, and the surrender of the Confederate army, slavery continued in places like Texas. Some slaveowners had relocated to Texas in order to continue the slave system. The Union army had to go to Texas to enforce the official end of the slave system in the United States.

To celebrate the end of slavery, the freedmen and women in Texas organized their own celebration the following year—June 19, 1866. This is how Juneteenth got started. Ever since then, Juneteenth has been celebrated in parts of the black community. People have organized events, get-togethers and barbeques. They have kept alive the tradition and celebration of Juneteenth for over 150 years.

The Juneteenth holiday belongs to them and to all those who protested last year. They are the reason we have this new holiday to enjoy.