“On Juneteenth, we recommit to our shared work to ensure racial justice, equity, and equality in America.” – President Joe Biden

June is steeped with plenty of wonderful holidays, like Flag Day and Father’s Day, and the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19, is also referred to as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Black Independence Day, and celebrates the end of slavery in America. Its name is a portmanteau, combining its month and its date to create “Juneteenth.”

The Origins of Juneteenth

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln decreed that more than three million slaves in the Southern states be freed, but it took more than two years for the news to reach the slaves in Texas.

It took very long for Texas to free enslaved African Americans because the Emancipation Proclamation extended freedom to slaves in Confederate States that were still rebelling. Making that order exist relied on military victories by the American army and an ongoing existence to carry them out.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger accompanied by Union soldiers, arrived in Galveston, Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and set the Texas slaves free. Finally, the people living there learned that slavery had been abolished, and the former slaves celebrated with prayers, singing, dancing, and feasting.

One June 19 the following year, the first official Juneteenth celebrations were carried out in Texas. People celebrated with prayer meetings, spiritual songs, and wearing new clothes to emphasize their freedom. A few years later, African Americans in other states celebrated Juneteenth, and those celebrations have continued into the 21st Century.

Celebrations today often involve prayer and religious services, speeches, educational events, cookouts, family gatherings and reunions, picnics, and parties involving music, dancing and singing.

While Juneteenth became a state holiday in Texas in 1980, and many states would follow, it wasn’t until 2021 that Juneteenth became a federal holiday. Now, Juneteenth is honored in the United States and around the world.

Juneteenth Today

There are plenty of resources for people to educate themselves on Juneteenth and Reconstruction. For example, there are a great deal of books to read like Make Good the Promises: Reclaiming Reconstruction and Its Legacies by Kinshasa Holman Conwill and Paul Gardullo, On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper.

Juneteenth is sometimes referred to as our country’s second independence day, though many Americans still don’t know about the holiday. However, it is important because it changed America for the better. We still have a long way to go, but African Americans are gaining more recognition and many lawmakers are taking discrimination a lot more seriously.

Any holiday that involves human rights, including Juneteenth, speaks to me. We need to learn about slavery to ensure it never happens again. We also need to remember and learn about the positive things about Juneteenth, to keep its legacy alive and influence positive change.


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