The people 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 personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
That's the text of General Order #3 issued by General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865 as he took military control of Texas following the end of the U.S. Civil War. This order essentially enforced the Emancipation Proclamation on the last part of the former Confederacy to come under Union control. This freed the last slaves in the former Confederacy (though slavery was still legal in two of the four "border states" that remained loyal to the United States, a situation rectified by the ratification of the 13th Amendment). June 19th ("Juneteenth") almost immediately became a holiday observed by African-Americans in Texas celebrating the end of their enslavement and has slowly spread in popularity and geographic reach ever since. Newsweek has a primer on the holiday.
I bring this up to note that the U.S. has no official, nationally recognized holiday commemorating the end of slavery. Despite the fact that ending slavery was a major turning point in the country's history and most Americans now recognize it as an overall good thing, there is no celebration of this on a national level, largely because until recently a significant number of white American didn't see ending slavery as a net positive. As I have in the past I'm using Juneteenth to suggest that the U.S. should have such a holiday. The U.S. already has a holiday to celebrate its independence from British rule (July 4), its presidents (third Monday in February), its flag (June 14), two holidays for its military; one for living veterans (November 11) and one for the dead (last Monday in May). Why not a holiday to commemorate "a new birth of freedom" in a nation that supposedly dedicates itself to freedom?
Some suggested dates:
Juneteenth (June 19, or possibly the third Monday in June): A personal favorite due to being the most widespread observance at present and being at a time of year conducive to celebrations. Already a state holiday in Texas.
13th Amendment Day (December 6): This was the date on which the 13th Amendment was ratified. At the time of ratification legal slavery still existed only in Kentucky and Delaware. A terrible date, wedged in between Thanksgiving and Christmas at a time of year already over-heavy with holidays.
Emancipation Day, national version (September 22 / January 1): This was the date on which the Emancipation Proclamation was signed / went into effect. January 1 is already a holiday, New Year's Day, so that's out. September 22 is a possibility though.
Emancipation Day, DC version (April 16): The District of Columbia already observes "Emancipation Day" on the anniversary of the date on which Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act. Another already-existing holiday at a convenient time of year. Advantage: celebrates a jurisdiction ending slavery without bloodshed. Disadvantage: because slaveowners were paid for their human property it implies that they had a legitimate claim to being able to own other human beings as property. Also one day after the traditional filing deadline for federal income tax returns, which I'm not sure counts as an advantage or a disadvantage.
What do you all think?