Posted on: June 2020 Stephanie Cavanagh
What is Juneteenth?
Today, June 19, is a beloved day in African American History – most commonly known as Juneteenth, it is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and “Cel-Liberation” Day. Juneteenth commemorates the abolishment of slavery in US and has been celebrated by African Americans since the 1800's.
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with federal orders of the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved people in Texas. This was almost two and a half years since President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which established that all enslaved people “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free”. Emancipation for all did not happen immediately after General Granger’s order but celebrations broke out amongst newly freed Black people – marking the first Juneteenth.
A few months later in December 1865, slavery in the US was formally abolished in the 13th Amendment.
Today, Juneteenth is the oldest recognized celebration observing the end of slavery in US – it is important to remember where we have been as a country, so we can create a better future for all. Juneteenth endorses African American success and achievement, while promoting continued community development and respect for all cultures.
How is it celebrated?
Following the first Juneteenth in 1865, the celebration became an annual event and it grew in popularity each year. After the Great Depression, more Black families emigrated from the South to other States and this spread the observance of Juneteenth throughout the country. Following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in the 1960s, his Poor People’s Campaign held a Juneteenth Solidarity Day, giving the holiday a new prominence in the modern civil rights movement.
Historically, the day was celebrated by focusing on family and community and taking part in parades, cookouts, and musical performances. Today, family and community celebrations are still very common and some cities, such as Washington, hold larger events such as parades and festivals.
How do I learn more?
What can I do to celebrate?
The importance of Juneteenth today
In recent years, some Juneteenth commemorations were tied to themes raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, and this year’s celebration may resonate in new ways, given the sweeping changes and widespread protests across the US. It is important to recognize the history behind Juneteenth and meaning the day holds in the context of today’s world.