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Americans are waking up to the importance of Juneteenth and it may become a national holiday

Americans are waking up to the importance of Juneteenth and it may become a national holiday
via @keekeesimpson / Twitter

Every year on July 4, Americans everywhere celebrate their independence from British rule with fireworks, hot dogs, and plenty of over-the-top displays of patriotism. However, when the U.S. declared its freedom in 1776, hundreds of thousands of people living in the U.S. were enslaved.

All Americans became truly free on June 19, 1865, a day that would come to be known as Juneteenth. On that day, Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves two-and-a-half years earlier and the Civil War with had ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April. But Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent.


The announcement is known as General Order No. 3.

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 personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly 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.

Gordon Grangervia Wikimedia Commons

Although the order promised "absolute equality," race-based oppression didn't end on that day nor has it been completely eradicated in the United States.

Juneteenth is now known as "America's Second Independence Day" and throughout the years has been celebrated primarily by African-Americans with family reunions, bar-b-ques, beauty pageants, religious services, dance performances, and strawberry soda.

Forty-six of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, a day of observance. However, the federal government has yet to make it a national holiday which would be a paid day off for many workers.

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May and the ensuing protests, the movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday is gaining momentum.

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced multiple resolutions to recognize the historical significance of Juneteenth. On June 15, her latest attempt has received support from more than 200 cosponsors. She also plans to introduce a bill that would make it a federal holiday.

"There needs to be a reckoning, an effort to unify. One thing about national holidays, they help educate people about what the story is," Jackson Lee said according to Time.

"Juneteenth legislation is a call for freedom, but it also reinforces the history of African Americans," she continued. "We've fought for this country. We've made great strides, but we're still the victims of sharp disparities."

Opal Lee, 93, has started a petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday and it is close to reaching 300,000 signatures.

"I believe Juneteenth can be a unifier because it recognizes that slaves didn't free themselves and that they had help, from Quakers along the Underground Railroad, abolitionists both black and white like Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, soldiers and many others who gave their lives for the freedom of the enslaved," Lee wrote in the petition.

"My goal with this petition and my walk is to show the Congress and the President that I am not alone in my desire to see national recognition of a day to celebrate 'Freedom for All,'" Lee adds.

After the petition reaches its goal, it will be sent to the president and Congress.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racism protests that have sprung up across the country, businesses throughout America are honoring Juneteenth by giving their employees paid days off.

Twitter and Space are one of the first major companies to announce it would be honoring the day.

Shortly after, Nike CEO John Donahoe declared that Juneteenth would be a day off for his employees across the globe to celebrate black culture and history.

"Our expectation is that each of us use this time to continue to educate ourselves and challenge our perspectives and learn," Donahoe wrote in a memo. "I know that is what I intend to do."

The NFL has announced it will observe Juneteenth and several teams announced they would be recognizing the holiday, including the Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, and Las Vegas Raiders.

Hella Creative, a Bay Area collective has created a list of companies that have announced they will honor Juneteenth. The action comes part of its HellaJuneteenth campaign to spread knowledge about the holiday and encourage companies and individuals to honor the it by not working.

Hella Creative has also created a document that employees can use to request the day off from their employers that also encourages them to consider making it a holiday.

"Although our company has not celebrated this holiday in the past, I would like to request that we honor the day this year and moving forward," the request reads.

Since its founding, freedom has been one of the most prominent values espoused by the United States of America. Americans have shed blood for our freedoms at home and sacrificed for its spread abroad. Making Juneteenth a national holiday would be one more way that America help honor its commitment to freedom while acknowledging it still has a long way to go before all of its people are truly free.

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The evolution of language is fascinating, and the etymology of specific words can be a fun little trip through human history as well as human creativity.

Many English words are derived from Greek and Latin, but other European languages make up a good chunk of our language as well. The roots of some words can surprise us, and so can the way certain words came to be. And in some cases, what we don't know can be just as surprising as what we do.

Enjoy diving into the history of 15 words we use every day.

1. Dog

Dog is often one of the first words babies learn to say, and it's one of the first kids learn to spell. But don't let its simplicity fool you. This word is truly a mystery.

The word "dog" comes from dogca, a very rarely used Old English word, but how we started using it as our everyday name for canines, no one knows. "Its origin remains one of the great mysteries of English etymology," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Even more interestingly, no one knows the origins of the Spanish word for "dog" ("perro"), nor do they know the origins of the Polish ("pies") or Serbo-Croatian ("pas") words for our canine friends, either. Who knew dogs were so enigmatic?

2. Nightmare

It's obvious where "night" comes from in "nightmare," but what about "mare"? Surely, were not referring to a female horse here.

Horse, no. But female, yes. Female goblin, to be precise. In Old English, mare means "incubus, nightmare, monster; witch, sorcerer." And "nightmare" started being used around 1300 to refer to "an evil female spirit afflicting men (or horses) in their sleep with a feeling of suffocation." Yikes. Thankfully, now it's just any old bad dream.

3. Jumbo

We've all seen animals named for words with certain meanings, but here we have the opposite. The word "jumbo" came from a large elephant who lived at the London Zoo. Zookeeper Anoshan Anathjeysari named him "Jumbe," the Swahili word for "chief." But his status as one of the largest African bush elephants in Europe in the 19th century caused his nickname, Jumbo, to become synonymous with enormousness.

muscular man exercising

Run, little mouse, run.

Photo by Anastase Maragos on Unsplash

4. Muscle

The Latin word musculus means "little mouse." As hilarious as it sounds, they thought the movement of muscles looked like little mice scurrying under the skin, hence the origin. Kinda ick to think about, but also logical, so here we are.

5. Quarantine

Ah, a word with which we are all familiar, thanks to COVID-19. But do we know what it really means?

If you understand roots, you may guess that "quar" might have something to do with the number four, and you'd be right. In Latin, quadraginta means a period of 40 days. Our usage of "quarantine" to mean isolation from others comes from the Venetian policy of ships coming into port from plague-stricken countries in the late 1300s to remain in port for 40 days before letting people off. The usage to mean any period of time in isolation began being used in the 1600s.

6. Mortgage

Most of us grow up not really understanding what a mortgage is until we buy our first house, but even then, most of us don't know what the word literally means. It comes from Old French, mort gaige, literally meaning "death pledge."

HAHAHAHAHA. Death pledge. Mortgage. That's funny.

However, it doesn't mean you're tied to the debt til you die, even if it feels like it. The death part means the deal dies either when you pay it off or when you become unable to pay. Doesn't really change the fact that it feels a bit like you're signing your life away when you buy a house, though.

ball of yarn

What does a ball of yarn have to do with "clue"?

Photo by Philip Estrada on Unsplash

7. Clue

Oddly enough, "clue" comes from a misspelling (or alternate spelling from before standardized spelling was a thing) of the word "clew," meaning a ball of yarn.

The word itself comes from German, but its usage points to the Greek myth in which Ariadne gives Theseus a ball (or clew) of yarn to help him escape the labyrinth. Now we use it to refer to anything that helps us solve a mystery.

8. Nice

The word "nice" is nice and simple, right? It's the most basic word we use for "pleasant," a definitively positive word. But this seemingly simple word has been through quite the trek in its etymology.

From the Latin nescius, meaning "ignorant, unaware," it was used to mean "timid" or"faint-hearted" before the year 1300. A couple hundred years later, it had morphed to "fussy, fastidious" or "dainty, delicate." In another 100 years, it changed to "precise, careful." Tack on another few hundred years and we're at "agreeable, delightful," and from there it was only short jaunt to "kind, thoughtful."

What a nice journey from insult to compliment.

9. Shampoo

I would have bet money that the word "shampoo" was French in origin, but nope. It's Hindi, coming from the term champo, and the original meaning was "to massage, rub and percuss the surface of (the body) to restore tone and vigor." It's only been used to refer specifically to lathering and washing out strands of hair or carpet since the mid 1800s.

10. Torpedo

Literally Latin for a stingray. As in the marine animal. That comes from the root word torpere, which means "be numb," since a ray's sting can numb you. It doesn't become the word for a propelled underwater explosive until the last couple hundred years.

11. Ambidextrous

We know that left-handedness was seen negatively throughout much of human history, but even the word that means "able to use both hands equally" has a right-handed bias baked into it. The medieval Latin ambidexter literally meansliterally means "right-handed on both sides."

Isn't English fun?