Everyone knows about the 4th of July because America makes sure it's recognized as one of the most important days of the year - and for good reasons. Independence Day marks the day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776 declaring that the 13 original colonies were a new nation. That is very well known and advertised with many major events taking place around the country to celebrate it.
Juneteenth is the Black Independence Day - that was the way I first had it described to me years ago. For those that don't know, it is the day that slaves in Texas first heard that slavery had been abolished. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed 2 years prior, it didn't apply to all slaves. Lincoln's proclamation only applied to Confederate states in areas that were liberated by the Union Army. It was not for the intent and purpose to abolish slavery as an institution.
The abolition of slavery as an institution didn't occur until the ratification of the 13th amendment in 1865 and this is when word finally got around to Texas and elsewhere that the plantation days were over. Historically, we know that new forms of slavery and servitude were developed to maintain the social dominance that was afforded to white Americans via the institution of chattel slavery, but Juneteenth represents our brief moment to celebrate.
Why Have So Few Heard of Juneteenth?
I wonder whether it's that people haven't heard of Juneteenth or if it's that people don't care about Juneteenth. The truth, as always, is most likely somewhere in the middle. Juneteenth is an important date, but like many celebratory days (and month if you include Black History Month) for African-Americans, its been derided as "not necessary" by whites and black people who don't know better.
Juneteenth is not a federally-recognized holiday. That plays a role too in the lack of attention given towards it. It's been up to the community to recognize June 19 every year, even though Juneteenth is recognized at the State level in most parts of the country.
Celebrating the end of slavery should be recognized by the federal government. I don't want to make too big a deal about why I think it's not federally-recognized, but in this day and age where people want to forget about slavery's role in the foundation of American society and wealth - Juneteenth is definitely more important now than it's been in recent years.
America wants to forget about slavery. Kanye West wants to blame black people for slavery, which is what he did when he called it a choice. If you think slavery was a choice, then you're shifting the blame from the perpetrators to the victims. From the oppressor to the oppressed. The black community must never forget, mostly because the mentality that maintained slavery is still very much with us today.
Happy Juneteenth family.
EDIT: Juneteenth Independence Day was recognized by Congress in 1997 through joint resolutions in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is not, however, a federally-recognized holiday of which there are 10. In my personal opinion, Columbus Day should be removed and replaced with Juneteenth Independence Day - not on the same date, but to take it's slot as one of the 10 federal holidays.