GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The U.S now has a new federal holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates the 1865 date when the last enslaved Black people in the U.S learned from the Union soldiers in Texas they were free, more than two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“It’s our July Fourth. It’s our Independence Day,” Greensboro Councilwoman Sharon Hightower said.
She says officially adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday honors the importance of the day, and takes a step toward racial justice and equity.
“It should have been an automatic, it’s not necessarily long overdue, but since we have now made it a paid holiday, I think what that says to all employees why Juneteenth is so important. The city is investing in their employees and their city,” Hightower said.
Festivities are usually held to commemorate the milestone in American history,
“It’s an acknowledgement of the history of our past and our present,” said Lovelle McMichael, co-founder of Uniting Black Men for Change.
He had a march in High Point on Washington Street Sunday.
“There’s a bridge that’s going to bring us over. When we look at that bridge, and how we’re coming over that bridge that takes us back historically to the bridge, all of the things our ancestors have done to pave the way for us,” he said.
Over in Greensboro at Sternberger Park, Josh Sauls, co-founder, of GSO Black Wall Street, sees the holiday as a chance to get minority businesses exposure.
“We don’t have access to the grants and things that other cultures do. So it’s important to come together,” he said.
While the federal holiday is significant, many say this is just the beginning,
“I think Juneteenth reminds us each and every year the work needs to be done for equality,” Hightower said.
Juneteenth becomes the first national holiday since MLK Day in 1983.