Updated: Mar 20
Origin of Juneteenth
Short for "June Nineteenth", Juneteenth celebrates the day when federal troops arrived at Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865, to take authority of the state and free those enslaved. The arrival of these troops came almost two and a half years after Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. The day has also been referred to as African American Freedom Day, Juneteeth National Independence Day, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Black Independence Day, and Emancipation Day.
While the holiday was first celebrated in 1865, the first observation was held the next year in Texas, which served as an annual tradition and was honored in various states as well.
On June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. This act has become the 12th permanent federal holiday, and the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day which was established in 1983.
Importance of Juneteenth
This holiday is pertinent in modern society so we may all honor and shine a spotlight on the realities of America’s complex history of bigotry and the tragedies of slavery. Alongside this remembrance, it is also an important celebration of the achievements, contributions, and lives of Black Americans and Black culture.
It offers an annual period to review the legacies of figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Ta-Nehisi Coates, Harriet Tubman, Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks, Serena Williams, W.E.B. DuBois, Ibrahim X. Kendi, Maya Angelou, bell hooks, and so many others. This time allows for an examination of the challenges Black Americans have struggled with (and continue to struggle with) alongside moments to commemorate progress and approaches to the future.
Celebration of Juneteenth
Initial festivities for Juneteenth included a vast array of events involving prayer meetings, religious services, speeches, parties, parades, picnics, dancing, and music. Presently similar events continue to be done in honor of Juneteenth as a popular way to celebrate. Another common way to celebrate the holiday is through family gatherings. Alongside this, there is informational programming and distribution of relevant literature with advocacy that is often utilized in Emancipation Day activities.
With the officiation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, numerous people have the day off, which provides the chance for introspection on the significance of the anniversary and to partake in a variety of Juneteenth activities.
To find out more about how you can partake in Juneteenth, please visit Juneteenth.com
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