The Juneteenth Federal Holiday Only Exists Because Of The George Floyd Protests
Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, was a long time in the making. Actually becoming one came in an instant. Legislation to recognize Juneteenth was first introduced in 1997 by Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). A resolution was passed in the House and the Senate, and a piece of paper was issued. Satisfied, Congress did nothing else related to Juneteenth until 2013, when the Senate passed a new resolution and produced another piece of paper.
By 2016, 45 states recognized Juneteenth, and Opal Lee, the “grandmother of Juneteenth,” began a walk from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., to advocate for a federal holiday. Every year for decades, Lee led a symbolic 2.5-mile walk to represent the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas. Opal Lee was 89 years old when she led the March to Washington. She truly believed Juneteenth would one day become a national holiday. Her question was, would it occur during her lifetime?
On May 25, 2020, a 46-year-old Black man, George Floyd, encountered police outside a Minneapolis corner store. He later died from his injuries, and his death became another statistic. On May 26, 2020, police issued a statement saying Floyd died after a “medical incident” and that he physically resisted and appeared to be in medical distress. Minutes afterward, a video shot by a bystander was posted online. It went viral, and portions were shown on television stations worldwide. The police immediately responded by saying the FBI would investigate the incident. On May 28th, Mayor Jacob Frey called for criminal charges against Chauvin, the lead officer involved. Protests lead to unrest in Minneapolis, with some people looting and starting fires. Protests spread to other cities around the nation, even the world.
Typically, protests rise and fade, but this time there was no putting the genie back in the bottle. All over the world, there were protests, and they did not subside quickly. Here is a photographic timeline with samples from the months after the video's release.
May 2020 — Atlanta, GA