Every day, we are united by our differences. At Las Cruces Public Schools, we celebrate diversity, welcome all students, and embrace the unique traditions of different cultures. This week marked a historical milestone that recognizes “Emancipation Day,” also known as “Juneteenth Independence Day.” A day first celebrated by African Americans in New Mexico’s neighboring state of Texas, in the aftermath of the civil war.
Juneteenth is an annual holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The historical day, dates to June 19, 1865, when Union general, Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom, as the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.
Juneteenth was given its name by combining June and 19, a day that meant freedom and absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property for thousands of African Americans that were still enslaved more than two years after the official Emancipation Proclamation.
On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth became the 11th holiday recognized by the federal government. On June 15, the Senate passed a bill to recognize the day, and the House approved the measure the next day. The bill was signed into law the day after by President Biden, immediately giving federal employees the day off this year.
In New Mexico, we continue to celebrate and honor pioneers like Clara Belle Williams, the first African American graduate, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1937, at the age of 51, from New Mexico State University. She later taught for Las Cruces Public Schools for more than twenty years at Booker T. Washington.
— Samantha Lewis, LCPS Public Relations Coordinator, 575-635-9303, email@example.com