47 states, including Indiana, and the nation’s capital Washington D.C., observe Juneteenth (June 19) or have it as a state holiday.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that legally declared all slaves were free. But, at that time some slave owners did not agree with the proclamation.
More than two years later, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger, from the Union Army, rode to Galveston, Texas and announced slavery and the Civil War were over.
“I think, you know, commemorations such as Juneteenth are the kind that we continuously need to keep us aware and focused on the idea that freedom is a constant struggle,” said Leslie Etienne, director of Africana Studies at IUPUI, to WISH TV.
The Congressional Research Service said Indiana has recognized Juneteenth since 2010. But, that’s not the case in the Dakotas or Hawaii, for those states still do not observe it.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said Juneteenth comes at an important time in the history of Indianapolis and the country.
"This year, Juneteenth arrives during a season of protest, one of the largest in the history of American civil rights. This movement has led not only to a greater focus on generations of racism and systemic injustice, but has further highlighted the need for policy change at the local, state, and federal level," says Hogsett.
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) plans to hold virtual events starting June 19th. They released the following statement:
To provide the Indianapolis community the opportunity to commemorate Juneteenth, the long history of bravery and resilience in the African American community, and to discuss new methods and models of freedom in the current moment. We believe that Juneteenth is not just a historic holiday, but that it is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate justice-seeking and liberatory practices in our contemporary communities. This is our initial dialogue addressing systemic racism in the United States and Indianapolis, and we are committed to maintaining these conversations in order to address and ultimately erase the long-standing impact of racism and white supremacy on the Black citizens of the United States. Please stay in touch with ASALH for more educational events as well as opportunities to engage in crucial conversations about African and African American history and the goal of transforming our society into a fairer and more just place for all of its citizens.
Governor Holcomb issued a proclamation celebrating Juneteenth. He called it an "opportunity to reflect, rejoice, and plan for a brighter future."
In an interview with WISH-TV, Susan Hall Dotson, the coordinator of African American History at the Indiana Historical Society, says the history of what has made Juneteenth significant in Indiana should never be forgotten.
"Although Indiana was not a slave state, it did have slaves at one time. The emancipation of slaves were for southern states, but Indiana did not fall into line with making African Americans because they weren't even considered Americans at that point. There were laws that disenfranchised black people right here in Indiana," says Dotson.
Dotson says the fight against systemic racism is far from over.
"Because we're still not free. We're still under siege. We're still taking hits from police brutality and other systemic issues that keep black people from getting ahead and having full rights and privileges in this country," says Dotson.