JUNETEENTH – also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day – is celebrated on June 19th. In honor of Juneteenth being “the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States” it is important to highlight what it is, its significance, and why it is celebrated.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is a holiday that is as important to our nation as the 4th of July. It commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people of Texas finally learned slavery had been abolished and that they were free. It commemorates African-American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement.
Why is Juneteenth Important?
Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army landed in Galveston, Texas and informed slaves that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished. Granger and roughly 2,000 Union soldiers were there to enforce President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had actually gone into effect more than two years earlier, on January 1, 1863. Texas during this time had been the most remote region of the Confederacy. Texas declared Juneteenth a legal state holiday in 1980, the first state do so. Other states since then have followed behind Texas. It’s the longest-running African-American holiday.
Why celebrate Juneteenth now?
Juneteenth has always been celebrated because it marks a date of major significance in American history. It is a day of remembrance and an opportunity for African-Americans to honor their history and celebrate Black culture. Over subsequent years, former slaves and their families continued celebrating their freedom with annual Juneteenth celebrations that also featured former slaves delivering inspirational speeches and reading from the Emancipation Proclamation. It marked a day for “grass-roots celebration highlighted by joyous singing, pig roasts, and rodeos.”
Juneteenth in the last few years has gained more recognition following the death of George Floyd. Thousands of people around the United States demonstrated in protest. The demonstrations against the killings of Black Americans and growing recognition of systemic racism has brought Juneteenth to the forefront of public awareness.
Why is Juneteenth called Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the combination of the words June and Nineteenth because it’s celebrated on June 19th.
Is Juneteenth a national holiday?
Juneteenth is now a federal holiday in the United States. The day was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, when President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.
How is Juneteenth celebrated today?
As per the holiday’s traditions, celebrations still often feature some mix of religious services and storytelling, along with music, food, parades and other jubilant celebrations of Black culture. Historians often point out that barbecue has always been a focal point of the holiday (with Texas newspaper articles from the late-1800s reporting that “the preparation and sharing of food was the main attraction” at many a Juneteenth celebration).