Juneteenth decorations, also called Freedom Day, is the day that slaves in Galveston, Texas, found out they were free. This happened on June 19, 1865, more than two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
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This year is the second time that Juneteenth is a state holiday in New Jersey. It’s a big deal, and the celebrations are a good example. Symbolism matters juneteenth decorations.
But symbols are not even close to being enough juneteenth decorations.
To make the promise of freedom full and real, we need to back it up with real investments and policies. That is still true today, just as it was 150 years ago.
Even though our streets were full of people calling for racial justice two years ago, New Jersey still hasn’t done anything.
Even though the Garden State is in the north and is known for being progressive, there are huge differences between the races there. Our racial gap in wealth is one of the worst in America, and so are our racial gaps in prison, infant mortality, and education.
These gaps can be filled with smart investments that show we really believe in real freedom, not just the idea of it. Still, there are several bills in our state legislature that can’t be passed because lawmakers lack the political will and courage to do so.
We must do better.
When it comes to policing, the legislature can pass a bill (S265/A2431) to ban chokeholds like the one that killed George Floyd and a bill (A1515) to set up civilian review boards to make law enforcement more accountable.
New Jersey can pass pending legislation (A1966/S247) to set up same-day voter registration, which would make it easy and safe for people to register and vote on the same day. This would stop the disenfranchisement of voters that happens at every election.
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To work toward economic fairness, we can pass bills to stop discrimination in home appraisals (A1519/S777). This is an important step because owning a home is one of the most important ways to get rich. We can also start a Baby Bonds program (A1579/S768) to give low-income youth, many of whom are people of color, the tools they need to thrive and make a smooth transition into adulthood. Both of these bills would help close the huge wealth gap between whites and blacks in New Jersey.
And finally, to make up for the damage caused by New Jersey’s long history of slavery and its lasting effects, we can pass pending legislation (A938/S386) to create a Reparations Task Force to study our state’s unique inequities and come up with policy ideas to fix them.
All of these bills are about making plans. They are very strong. And you can do them.
Most importantly, they will help us get closer to the freedom that was promised but not yet achieved on that day in 1865.
So, yes, let’s have a party on Juneteenth. But if we want that party to mean something, we should also pass laws.
Please go to our Action Center to tell your elected officials that they need to do something now.
Juneteenth is a holiday for African Americans all over the country, but no one really knows what happened on June 19, 1865. As the country celebrates the second federal legal holiday honoring the end of slavery in Texas, there are a number of common misconceptions that keep coming up about the event.
Myth #1: On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and it’s crazy that it took two and a half years for slaves in Texas to finally hear about it.
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Many slaves knew that Lincoln had signed an order to free them. The news was written about a lot in anti-abolitionist ways in Texas newspapers, and black people would have heard white people talking about it both in private and in public. Also, Edward T. Cotham, Jr., a Texas Civil War historian and the author of Juneteenth, The Story Behind The Celebration, says that slaves in Texas had a very sophisticated network for communicating with each other. “The word got around like wildfire. We know that some slaves heard about the Emancipation Proclamation before their masters did. Because there was no army to enforce it, it didn’t mean anything.”