WACO, Texas – President Joe Biden put pen to paper Thursday to make Juneteenth a federal holiday to commemorate the day in 1865 when the last enslaved Texans received word about the Emancipation Proclamation, and is recognized on June 19.
“This is not an African-American holiday,” Dr. Peaches Henry, President of the Waco branch of the N.A.A.C.P., said. “This is an American holiday.”
The holiday has been celebrated in the Lone Star State for generations.
“It brings back such fond memories for me,” Henry said. “I am delighted that we can now invite the whole rest of the country to celebrate this holiday with us.”
Henry understands people outside of Texas might still not know about the holiday and what it means to black Americans. She believes this legislation provides a learning opportunity.
“People outside of Texas were largely unaware of Juneteenth,” Henry said. “Within our state, people who are not of African-American descent were also unaware of the holiday, so now we take this opportunity as an educational moment.”
When the bill passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, 14 Congressmen still voted against it – with some saying there should only be one Independence Day in the country.
“It would be great if we could have one Independence Day, but what we need to understand is that not everybody was liberated with the start of our country,” Henry said. “African-Americans had to wait.”
The Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce is putting on a parade Saturday starting at 10:00 a.m. in Heritage Square. Following the parade, the N.A.A.C.P. will host a reception at Wilbert Austin Park in Waco – where COVID vaccines will be free for anyone 18 years or older.