It is finally JUNE, and you know what that means… Yes, it is officially summer. But more importantly, it is JUNETEENTH! Well, what is exactly is Juneteenth you may be wondering? In a literal sense, Juneteenth is the combination of June and the nineteenth. This day also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, or even Second Independence Day serves as one of the most important days in American history and specifically in the African American community.
It is the oldest nationally-celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln went into effect stating, “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State... shall be the, thenceforward, and forever free…” However, this document only applied to enslaved people in the Confederacy, and not the border states who remained loyal to the Union.
As a result, more than 250,000 enslaved individuals in Texas were not freed until Major General Gordan Granger’s arrival in Texas two years later on June 19th, 1865. ‘The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free..’ - General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865.
On that day and thereafter, they celebrated their freedom, making it the official celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. Although, some people found it quite difficult to celebrate their freedom with the enactment of the Jim Crow laws. In addition, during the Great Depressions, many black farming families were unable to take the day off to celebrate due to their urgent need of finding employment.
Juneteenth Celebration, June 19, 1900 in Texas.
Today, people take part in barbecues, prayer services, music festivals and more to commemorate this important day. In 1979, Texas officially became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Following, 49 other states including the District of Columbia have come to acknowledge this day. Until this day, South Dakota has fell short after two attempts during the 2021 legislative session to make Juneteenth a recognized holiday.
Juneteenth celebration at Eastwoods Park in 1900.
How To Celebrate Juneteenth This Year
Want to celebrate Juneteenth? Over the years, the holiday has been celebrated around the world amongst various communities. Many U.S. cities often hold parades and festivals that people can participate in such as in New York City, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Also, support your local Black-owned restaurants in the community!
Take a trip to Washington D.C. and visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture to learn about the African American experience. While this day calls for a celebration, it is important to know your history and reflect on events that have shaped the world today.