Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom

Juneteenth is a federal holiday that marks a pivotal moment in American history — the end of slavery in the U.S. The day has become an annual celebration of African American freedom, culture, and achievements. 

What is Juneteenth 

Juneteenth commemorates the day Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to inform 250,000 enslaved African Americans of their freedom and the end of the Civil War. The announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years after it was issued by Abraham Lincoln. Slavery was formally abolished that December with the adoption of the 13th Amendment.  

The next year, freedmen in Texas organized a celebration on June 19, which became an annual event known as “Jubilee Day.” In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. 

Juneteenth is a holiday rich in history and is considered the longest-running African American holiday, though it was only recognized as a federal holiday in 2021 — the first to be approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. 

Other Names for Juneteenth 

Juneteenth is also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Black Independence Day. 

Juneteenth Today

Early Juneteenth celebrations involved prayer and family gatherings, and celebrations today are still rooted in events like barbeques and cookouts. 

It’s customary to consume red foods on Juneteenth, as the color symbolizes the sacrifice and blood that was shed by those who were enslaved. 

How You Can Commemorate Juneteenth 

You can recognize and celebrate the importance of Juneteenth in a number of ways.

Here are some examples: 

  • Search online for an event, like a rally or a seminar, near you 
  • Host your own cookout or barbeque 
  • Honor the day on social media by posting about the importance of the day or by sharing or interacting with others’ posts about it 
  • Furthering your education about the history of slavery 
  • Visit a Black museum or historic site 
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