In the Shadows of Independence Day: How Juneteenth is Overshadowed by Independence Day Celebration in America Culture

Jul 4, 2024 | Juneteenth Articles

Here in the United States, there are two pivotal moments in the nation’s history, embodying themes of independence, freedom, and equality. Those two moments are, Juneteeth and July 4th. While July 4th commemorates the country declaration of independence from British rule in 1776, Juneteenth marks the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in Texas on June 19, 1865. Despite the significance of both dates, the July 4th celebration has historically overshadowed Juneteenth, reflecting deeper societal dynamics and  historical inequalities. Let’s dive deeper into the ways in which the prominence of July 4th has eclipsed the recognition and observance of Juneteenth in American culture.

Historical Context of July 4, 1776 and June 19, 1865

Enslaved African men played a crucial role in the fight for freedom during both events of July 4th and Juneteenth in American History. On July 4, 1776, also known as Independence Day,  as the US declared its independence from British rule, many enslaved Africans saw their participation as an opportunity to possibly secure their own liberation. Some joined the Continental Army or militias, hoping to gain their freedom through service, while others seized the chance to escape bondage amidst the chaos of war. Their sacrifice and bravery played a major role to the American cause for independence, although the African soldiers who survived the war continued to face the harsh realities of slavery. July 4th is marked by fireworks, parades, cookouts, and patriotic displays that evoke a sense of national pride and unity among Americans. Thanks to the educational system, this day has also become deeply ingrained in the national consciousness of all Americans, especially the Black Americans, as a symbol of American identity and unity.

In contrast, Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, commemorates the delayed announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. and eighty-nine years after the US declared its independence from the British rule. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and read General Order No. 3, announcing the freedom of the approximately 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas.

Original handwritten record of General Order No. 3 held in the National Archives

Many enslaved individuals were already actively resisting their enslavement. Some had fought alongside Union forces, while others had engaged in acts of rebellion and defiance against their oppressors. Their combined actions helped pave the way for emancipation and the eventual abolition of slavery in the United States, marking a significant victory in the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality. The stories of enslaved individuals who fought for their own liberation on both July 4th and Juneteenth serve as a powerful testament to their resilience, courage, and unwavering determination of African Americans in the face of adversity. Juneteenth celebrations focus on honoring the struggles and achievements of African Americans, celebrating their freedom, and advocating for racial equality and justice. Despite its historical significance, Juneteenth has often been marginalized and overlooked in the broader American cultural landscape.

The Overshadowing Dynamics of July 4th Celebration

The July 4th celebration overshadowing of Juneteenth can be attributed to a combination of social, historical, and cultural factors that reflect deeper power dynamics and inequalities within the American society. The legacy of slavery and systematic racism has marginalized the experiences and contributions of African Americans, therefore pushing Juneteenth outside the boundary of national consciousness.  

The dominance of July 4th as a unifying national holiday has reinforced a narrative of American distinctiveness and unity that often overlooks the darker chapters of the country’s history, including the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination. The emphasis on July 4th as a symbol of “national pride and identity” has, consciously or unconsciously, marginalized alternative narratives and histories, such as Juneteenth, that challenge the prevailing tradition but unfounded story that gives the reason for a current belief of American greatness.

The Cultural Sway of July 4th a Dominant National Holiday

The cultural sway of July 4th as a dominant national holiday has perpetuated the marginalization of Juneteenth within the American cultural landscape. With the continued assistance of mainstream media, educational institutions, and public discourse, July 4th celebration is prioritized over Juneteenth, reinforcing a hierarchy of cultural significance that privileges certain narratives over others.

The commercialization and commodification of July 4th as a consumer-driven holiday further entrench its status as the preeminent national celebration, overshadowing the grassroots and community-based observances of Juneteenth. The lack of official recognition and support for Juneteenth as a federal holiday has also contributed to its marginalization, perpetuating a cycle of invisibility and erasure that reinforces historical inequalities and injustices.

Juneteenth Challenges and Opportunities

2024 Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageantry Program Second Line Parade held on June 14, 2024 at 6:19 PM in downtown Mobile, AL.

The overshadowing of Juneteenth by the July 4th celebration poses challenges to efforts to promote racial equality, social justice, and historical awareness in American society. By relegating Juneteenth to the margins of cultural visibility, the nation risks continuing a selective and distorted understanding of its true history and identity that erases the experiences and contributions of marginalized communities.

However, there are opportunities to address these challenges and elevate the recognition and observance of Juneteenth within the broader American cultural landscape. Initiatives to promote education and awareness about Juneteenth, support for and/or participation in community-led celebrations and events such as the Miss Juneteenth America Scholarship Pageantry Program, and advocacy for official recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday can help to amplify its significance and ensure that it receives the attention and reverence it deserves.

In conclusion, as the United States grapples with issues of racial justice, social equity, and historical memory, there is an urgent need to elevate the visibility and significance of Juneteenth as a vital part of the American cultural tapestry. By acknowledging and honoring the legacies of both July 4th and Juneteenth, Americans can engage in a more inclusive and nuanced dialogue about the nation’s past, present, and future, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of the diverse experiences and contributions that shape the American experience.

Registration is now open for the 2025 Miss Juneteenth America Scholarship Pageantry Program!

The registration deadline is October 31, 2024

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