• Courtney Heard

Why A Global Atheist NonProfit Celebrates Juneteenth

On January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation officially declared that all slaves in the Confederate States of America were to be freed. So why do we celebrate Juneteenth on June 19th? And why are you reading about it on the Secular Rebel?

It was June 19th, 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and delivered word that the war had ended and all slaves were to be freed. This is two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The reasons why vary depending on who you ask. Some people say that Southern slave owners fled to Texas, the most isolated state with the least amount of Union troops, to continue profiting off of slave labour. Other stories suggest that plantation owners wanted to get one more good crop out of the bodies they enslaved. Others suggest that it was just that Texas was so far away and so few Union troops were there.

But we know it takes around 80 days to cross America on horseback. We know two and a half years to deliver word from Washington to Texas is not a reasonable time frame.

Despite how late it was, Granger read the news loudly,

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer."

While this was indeed a happy moment and most definitely a win for human rights, this was also just the beginning of a long struggle for equality in America. This is, very obviously, a fight that is still being fought today.

So, why does it matter to a bunch of atheists? Why are we posting about it here?

It is because, at its heart, International Association of Atheists is a human rights organization. As human rights activists, we see the deep roots of slavery still entangled in our world today. We see the connection that exists between that day in Texas and the fight for freedom for all people all over the world right now. Freedom to live, freedom to speak; to vote and to marry; the freedom of religion and most certainly the freedom from it.

We must remember the lives of the men and women who were freed that day, and before them, the men and women who knew nothing other than servitude from birth until death. We need to remember the men and women before them, who were ripped from their homelands and their families and their cultural identity. Human beings denied the very basic rights to family, autonomy, love, dignity, humanity.

We have to remember because that day in June 1865 was the result of activism. As human rights activists, we don’t just need to talk about and celebrate Juneteenth, we feel it’s one of, if not the most important holiday of the year.

In that spirit, we would like to ask that you add your name to the growing list of people who back Juneteenth becoming a national holiday in the United States of America. Sign here.

Happy Juneteenth from IAA and keep standing up for human rights.

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