Juneteenth and Independence Day: What Is The Difference
Independence Day had already been declared as July fourth, why did we need another Independence Day if we already had one?
What, though, is Juneteenth?
Also, why is this day often referred to as a “second Independence Day” by Black Americans? All these are questions you might begin to ask.
These are historical questions on Black Americans’ struggles for freedom and equality. You will find answers to all these questions and more in this article. Let’s dive in to find out.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the longest-running African American holiday, commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States. It is an abbreviation for “June Nineteenth,” the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure the freedom of all enslaved people. The troops arrived two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
Margrett Nillin, a former Galveston slave, was questioned if she preferred slavery or freedom years after slavery was abolished. She said clearly, “Well, it is this way.” I had nothing in slavery. I owned a home and raised my family in freedom. All of this makes me worried, and I’m not worried about slavery. But I prefer freedom.
What is Independence Day?
Independence Day (the Fourth of July) is a federal holiday in the United States honoring the ratification of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, so founding the United States of America.
The Declaration of Independence provided some measure of liberty to the American colonists. They were no longer subjects of the Crown; they were now citizens of their states, self-governing. However, it did nothing for the half a million people who were deprived of freedom, those enslaved by American colonists.
Difference Between Juneteenth and 4th July (Independence Day)
During the Civil War, the Confederates celebrated July 4 with the same zeal as the Union and declared themselves “the loyal inheritors” of the values of Independence Day. It commemorates the right of people to organize their political communities and make their laws, including, if they so desire, laws that enslave persons who are not members of those communities.
Juneteenth, on the other hand, commemorates the defeat of those enslaver governments in the name of universal individual freedom. It is also a “symbolic day” for the African American struggle for freedom and equality.
It is now recognized as Juneteenth National Independence Day. It’s celebrated in the United States, as well as in Nigeria, Canada, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, and some other countries in the world.
Juneteenth National Independence Day is also known as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Independence Day, and Emancipation Day. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed the legislation making the holiday a formal public holiday on June 17, 2021.
Eight Courageous Americans Who Fought for Equality
1: Frederick Douglass
Throughout most of his career, he fought for the abolition of slavery and collaborated with notable abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Gerrit Smith. Frederick Douglass was referred to as the civil rights movement’s “Father.”
2: Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his use of peaceful resistance to obtain equal rights for Black Americans. Martin Luther King is well known for his superb oratory abilities, most notably in his “I Have a Dream” speech. He marched and led marches for voting rights, desegregation, labor rights, and other civil rights.
3: Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks became a hero in the civil rights movement after refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in favor of a white passenger. She refused to give up her seat because of her race, as was required under Montgomery law at the time. Parks was briefly imprisoned and fined. She was, however, a long-time NAACP member who was well-liked in her neighborhood.
4: Mildred Loving
Richard and Mildred Loving were convicted of interracial marriage on January 6, 1959, and were ordered by a Virginia court to leave the state. At the time, 24 states had laws expressly forbidding marriage between people of different races.
5: Charles Hamilton Houston
He was an American lawyer who was instrumental in repealing Jim Crow legislation and the prohibition of racial segregation in American public schools. Known as “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow,” he was involved in practically every civil rights issue heard by the Supreme Court between 1930 and 1950. With his great academic record, he was admitted to Harvard Law School and became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review.
6: James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson was a civil rights activist and writer. He was the NAACP’s executive secretary for a decade, and he was also a composer who created the words to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black national anthem. He was hired as New York University’s first African American professor.
7: Oscar Micheaux
Oscar Micheaux (also spelled “Michaux”), the country’s first prominent Black director, directed and produced 44 films during his career. Micheaux’s work not only empowered African-Americans and helped break prejudices, but it also impacted other filmmakers. Spike Lee, John Singleton, and Melvin VanPeebles all cite Micheaux as a major influence and a true film pioneer.
8: Harry T. and Harriette Moore
Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette V. S. Moore, were early Civil Rights Movement activists and leaders in the United States, and they became the movement’s first martyrs. Moore, along with other NAACP officials, created the Progressive Voters League in the 1940s, a group that registered over 100,000 Black voters for several years. He was aware that voting rights were dangerous and could cost him his life. Harry T. and Harriette Moore paid the ultimate price for their community’s freedoms when they were murdered in their own house by Ku Klux Klan members in 1951.
The above named are not the only notable black history figures. Check out a list of more notable black history figures.
Frequently Asked Questions on Juneteenth
1: Who wrote the Juneteenth Order?
On June 13, 1865, Gen. Phil Sheridan sent an order to Granger from his headquarters in New Orleans, asking him to notify the people of Texas that “all slaves are free” as soon as he landed in Galveston. The text of Sheridan’s order was imported and served as the beginning and end of the Juneteenth Order. The order’s middle section, which referenced “absolute equality,” was authored by Maj. Frederick W. Emery.
2: Why was the Juneteenth Order issued?
The Juneteenth Order was intended to serve as formal notice to Texas slaveholders that the institution of slavery had ended, as well as to demonstrate that the United States Army was now present in Texas and dedicated to liberation.
3: What does the U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger Order No. 3 state?
“The people of Texas have been informed that, following a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” This involves perfect equality of personal rights and property rights between former owners and slaves, and the previously existing connection between them becomes that of employer and hired labor. “They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
4: Why were the last two sentences added?
The final two sentences were inserted to inform the released slave that they must continue working in their current residences and are not permitted to be idle. The second sentence was especially significant to Union generals, who feared that liberated slaves might abandon the harvests and turn to the troops for assistance.
5: How is the name Juneteenth derived?
The name Juneteenth is derived from the terms June and nineteenth. It is also known as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day,” or “Emancipation Day” in several countries.
6: Which state was the first to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday, and how is the holiday being celebrated?
Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday in 1980. However, many people have been celebrating Juneteenth informally since 1866. Juneteenth is traditionally celebrated with parades, worship, music, picnics, church services, and other events.
7: Why is red food so common in Juneteenth celebrations?
The red represents the struggle and bloodshed that Black Americans endured while enslaved. Furthermore, many historians believe that the red played an important role in key celebrations in West African countries, where many previously enslaved people originated. Eating red-colored food was also interesting because the majority of the common foods during slavery were white, green, or brown. Some of the common Juneteenth foods include red rice, barbecue, red velvet cake, red hibiscus drink, etc.
8: How many states observe Juneteenth as a permanent paid state holiday?
50 states in the United States now either commemorate or observe Juneteenth. 23 states and the District of Columbia observe it as a permanent paid state holiday. The number is expected to increase in 2023 as Connecticut will legally recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday on June 19, 2023. A few other states are also considering making the day an official holiday.