Today is Juneteenth, the day the last vestiges of slavery finally met their end in the United States more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln deemed it so.
The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863, but because of geography and the slow means of communication at the time, the slaves in Texas were the last to hear the news. That happened June 19, 1865, a day that suddenly freed slaves celebrated.
More than 150 years later, the whole country should join in the celebration. Certainly, if states and communities to this day can have government-sanctioned holidays and monuments honoring those who fought to keep people in bondage, Americans can parade through towns everywhere to mark the time the abhorrent practice ended.
In Brazoria County, parades and other festivities will be the order of the day, giving area residents the opportunity to mark the day every man, woman and child in the country could call themselves free.
The annual parade will start at noon today from the Pizza Hut parking lot on North Velasco Street in Angleton and wind its way to Bates Park on CR 219. Live music, bingo, food booths, bouncy houses and a voter registration station will be set up in the park.
Elsewhere in the country, however, some people have never heard of the historic holiday. While 45 states acknowledge Juneteenth — only Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire and the Dakotas do not — it gets little attention in most places. There are no parades, rousing speeches or history lessons to honor its significance.
It is time for that to change. A presidential proclamation — like the one that freed the slaves to start with — is all that would be needed to designate Juneteenth as a presidential holiday. Congress also should step up to make the holiday official and encourage its celebration throughout the nation.
In just 15 days, Americans everywhere will roll out barbecue pits and light up fireworks to commemorate the day in 1776 when a group of white aristocrats, many of them slave owners, declared that the colonists would no longer live under tyranny. For almost a century after, thousands of men were denied the inalienable rights proclaimed in that declaration.
All Americans should likewise join in celebration of the day when those words did not ring hollow to those brought here in chains by making Juneteenth a national holiday.