ORANGEBURG, S.C. – This week, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed the Juneteenth Independence Day Act establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday and Thursday afternoon, President Joe Biden officially signed this bill into law.
This will be the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983.
Juneteenth, also known as the Emancipation Day for African Americans, commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. This holiday was established to honor June 19, 1865, the day when General Gordan led thousands of federal troops to Galveston, Texas, to announce the ending of slavery and the Civil War.
In 1979, Juneteenth became an official holiday in the state of Texas. Now, it is recognized and celebrated throughout America.
“I think Juneteenth means not only everything to me, but everything to us as African Americans, understanding that it was our independence. There was a point in time where we weren’t allowed to have the same privileges as our counterparts, as unfortunate as it is,” said South Carolina State Mister Junior Aubrey Brown.
Although equality for Black Americans remains a work in progress, this celebratory day marked an important time in history because it represented the start of a new age.
“I feel like we should be more aware about what’s going on and about the holiday itself, because it’s for us. Some don’t want us to know our history, they don’t care if we know our history, so it’s up to us to find out for ourselves,” Brown said.
South Carolina State Mister Junior Aubrey Brown.
Some professors who once attended South Carolina State University do not recall learning about the holiday when they were in school. SC State now makes it a priority to educate its students on the history of the emancipation of their ancestors.
“You would hear people talking about Juneteenth, but there was no real public discussion about what it was,” Dr. Alison McLetchie said. “I don’t think there’s been enough education or knowledge throughout this society about Juneteenth. Part of that is because of how poorly history is taught.”
McLetchie teaches sociology and anthropology courses in the social sciences department at SC State. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from SC State and her master’s in anthropology and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of South Carolina (USC).
Dr. Alison McLetchie
“We certainly do, by nature of what we teach, have to examine and teach African American history and African American life,” she said.
Even though Juneteenth is during the summer season when students are typically not in class, McLetchie and other professors from her department make sure to incorporate African American studies into their curricula.
“As a department, we work hard to teach students about various markers in African American life and Black life in general, and that includes Juneteenth. I am certain that it is something that is discussed in history classes taught by the professors in this department,” McLetchie said. “Juneteenth, Emancipation Day celebration, Indigenous Day— all these celebrations are ways that we can include people and expand the discussion, so that American history truly becomes American history, including all diversities in America.”
Today, the students of SC State are making it their duty to spread the word about this important holiday.
SC State Miss Junior Brice Moore
“It’s a holiday that doesn’t get enough recognition in the communities worldwide, but also in the black community, especially in the south where it has the most prevalent significance. It’s something that should be celebrated in our communities, within our families, within our homes and something that should be taught in schools,” said SC State Miss Junior Brice Moore.
Along with other SC State students, Moore has expressed that the history of Juneteenth should be taught to kids at a young age, so that it’s normal to celebrate this holiday instead of being an afterthought. Even though Juneteenth is fairly new to some students, many are passionate about spreading the word and celebrating the holiday.
“Coming from an HBCU where we’re birthing black excellence, we’re just trying to continue the legacy of those who started it before us. To all my black kings and queens, just continue to live on your ancestor’s legacy. Continue to do great things, because if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t even be in the position that we’re in today,” said SC State student Jaylen Polk.
SC State student Jaylen Polk