June 19 commemorates the true ending of slavery in the United States. While Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn't until June 19, 1865, that General Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and any enslaved people were freed by executive order.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post published on Friday, Usher advocates to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. He also explains the T-shirt he wore back in 2015 at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, which had the words "July Fourth" crossed out and replaced with "Juneteenth."
"I have no issue with celebrating America’s independence on July 4," the 41-year-old singer writes. "For me, wearing the shirt was an opportunity to inform others who may not necessarily know the history of black people in America, and who are not aware that Juneteenth is our authentic day of self-determination. It is ours to honor the legacy of our ancestors, ours to celebrate and ours to remember where we once were as a people. And it should be a national holiday, observed by all Americans."
Usher shares that he didn't learn about the significance behind Juneteenth until a decade ago and that he had to seek out the knowledge himself, given the limitations of what school taught him about black history.
"Growing up in Chattanooga, Tenn., I was taught in school one version of U.S. history that frequently excluded the history of my family and my community," he shares. "I came to understand Juneteenth’s history a decade ago during a period of reflection and in pursuit of any ancestral history that would tell me who I am."
The R&B star later writes about how he feels June 19 should be observed, which doesn't mean taking a day off.