Why would a state that has a gigantic monument which includes a carving of the man often referred to as the "Great Emancipator" drag its collective heels about celebrating a holiday which commemorates that event?

Like many things in our society, politics can and does play a significant role in situations like this.

Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday on June 15, 2017, when a bill passed by Congress was signed by the president. On Thursday, February 10, 2022, Governor Kristi Noem signed a bill that had finally made its way out of the legislature making Juneteenth a state holiday. That made South Dakota the last state in the U.S. to do this.

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What is Juneteenth?

Known to some as the country’s “second Independence Day,” Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of enslaved people in the United States at the end of the Civil War. For more than 150 years, African American communities across the country have observed this holiday.-Sydney Combs for National Geographic

Abraham Lincoln gave the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and contrary to popular thought, it did not free all the slaves. It only freed enslaved people in states which had seceded from the U.S.

...by July 1862, the President had decided that emancipation was a military necessity. Lincoln knew that many thousands of enslaved people were ready to fight for the Union. He wrote, “This is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force which may be measured …Keep [that force] and you can save the Union. Throw it away, and the Union goes with it.” - Bill of Rights Institute

Juneteenth commemorates the day, June 19th, 1865 that federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, took control of the city, and made sure all enslaved people knew they were now free. Estimates were that 250,000 slaves did not know this had occurred.

This momentous day took place a full 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Today, Juneteenth is a symbol of hope. The hope of inclusion along with diversity, because you can't have one without the other. The hope of peace, kindness, and facing the future, together.

South Dakotans should be proud that we have joined this celebration which is part of the journey toward fulfilling the...

promise as stated in the Declaration of Independence: “…all men are created equal…” -Bill of Rights Institute

Sources: Bill of Rights InstituteDakota News Now, National Geographic, and Archives.org

Good Earth State Park-South Dakota

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