People across the US celebrated the new federal holiday of Juneteenth, commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, while two trailblazing cities erected new statues of George Floyd on Saturday.
Although Juneteenth was only recognized as a federal holiday this year, the day has a long history and was first celebrated in Galveston, Texas in 1866.
The new federal holiday of Juneteenth
Juneteenth is a holiday which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the US. It has also been known as Jubilee Day or Black Independence Day. President Joe Biden made Juneteenth a national holiday on June 17, 2021, only two days before it is celebrated, when he signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.
Juneteenth’s commemoration is on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865, which signifies the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger. Granger, with his proclamation, enforced the emancipation and subsequent freedom of enslaved people in Texas, which was the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.
Although slavery was officially abolished in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln, enforcement in confederate and southern states, which were far from the capital and therefore had a fair amount of independence, was lax.
Statues of George Floyd erected
New York City, celebrated Juneteenth this year by erecting a statue commemorating George Floyd, who became the face of the “Black Lives Matter” movement in 2020 following his murder by police officer Derek Chauvin.
Terrence Floyd, George’s brother, unveiled a six-foot statue by artist Chris Carnabuci in Brooklyn on Saturday as crowds gathered to witness the historic moment. The commemorative statue will remain at Flatbush Junction, Brooklyn, for two to three weeks before being moved to the more central location of Union Square, Manhattan.
In nearby Newark, New Jersey, a similar statue honoring Floyd’s memory was erected outside of City Hall on Juneteenth.
The statue is made of bronze and weighs a staggering 317 kilograms (700 pounds), which was all lovingly designed by artist Stanley Watts.
The mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka, spoke prior to the unveiling, saying that he wishes the statue will make people “become active in the things, the struggles that are happening right here in Newark and right here in New Jersey.”
“George Floyd represents a lot more than himself,” Baraka continued about the legacy left behind by Floyd’s tragic and untimely death.
“All of the activity that took place around this country, around the world, because of the untimely and ferocious and vicious death, murder of George Floyd and all of the activism that sparked out of it is worth us pausing and paying attention to.”
A tweet by the City of Newark about the new statue of George Floyd that was unveiled on Juneteenth in the city is shown below.