LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Juneteenth, now a federal holiday, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
On June 19, 1865, the last of the African American slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally told they were free, about two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“This was the official declaration that permanently ended racialized chattel slavery in the United States,” said Tyler Parry, an assistant professor of African Studies at UNLV.
Parry says that back in the 1860s, news traveled slowly, and slave owners tried to hide the information for as long as possible.
The UNLV professor believes Juneteenth was often overlooked in the last century and a half because of the ongoing racial division around the nation.
“My theory is not a lot of people heard of Juneteenth because Black voices have never really been centered in America,” he said.
Now, 156 years later, it is being recognized on a federal level.
Parry believes that last summer’s events after George Floyd’s murder caused an uproar from the Black community and brought to light the injustice that started with slavery in the 1800s.
“Now is a good time to have a Black-centered holiday to be officially recognized in the United States, now, where people can ensure the holiday’s true meaning is never lost,” Parry noted.
The last federal holiday that was officially recognized was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.