Juneteenth, or the 19th of June, is a state holiday in Texas. Until very recently, most other Americans had probably never heard of it. All Americans should know about Juneteenth and all of America should observe this date in history.

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston that, according to federal orders, all slaves in Texas were free. Much of the rest of the South was already aware that slavery was ending. But being so remote in those days, it took a while for word to travel as far west as Texas.

Though the Civil War ended in April 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, had already freed some 3.5 million Black slaves upon their escape to the North or the advance of Union soldiers into the South. Slavery in the United States, however, was not officially abolished until December 6, 1865, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The June 19th proclamation by General Granger has become synonymous with emancipation and is as good a day as any to celebrate the end of a very dark period in American and world history. This should be a joyous celebration for all Americans. Juneteenth is as significant a day in the fight for freedom as Independence Day.

The end of slavery was simply the end of one chapter of the Black experience in America. There were many more difficult and complicated chapters to follow and the book is still being written today.

June 19th, also known as Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, and Liberation Day, should be a day of national celebration. Emancipation was an experience shared by Black and White Americans alike. Many Black and White lives were lost in the fierce struggle for emancipation, often side-by-side on the battlefields. A national holiday commemorating emancipation would be unifying and a building block for better understanding and appreciation for all Americans of all races.

Happy Juneteenth. Making this a national holiday is long overdue.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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