155 years ago today, on June 19th, 1865, a contingent of Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas and advised local enslaved African Americans that they were free. This was a year and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued and almost two months after the surrender of Lee’s army, effectively ending the American Civil War. A year later free men in that community celebrated the anniversary that became known as Juneteenth, marking the last Emancipation of enslaved populations in the United States of America.
It has long been a significant annual celebration for African Americans and others. Next year the state of New York will make it a paid holiday for state employees. Across the nation it is gaining adherents and there is a push to make it a Federal Holiday. That would be wonderful but it will be a long struggle and we will see how quickly the Congress will work on it.
Until then, considering the current state of the nation, I have an additional proposal for Federal Holidays. Not a new one, but a fitting swap. Let us dispense with Columbus Day and not just to rename it Indigenous Peoples Day. Instead, let’s trade it for another autumn holiday, the only one named in our Constitution. Election Day. Let’s make it a National Holiday with paid time off to better allow people to vote. More voting, despite some claims, should be good for a democracy, don’t you think? Let’s see what the greeting card industry does with that!
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