On June 19th, Americans around the country will join in celebrations to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation, which was a Presidential Executive Order from Abraham Lincoln declaring “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states, “are, and henceforward shall be free.” The official date of Juneteenth, June 19, 1865, commemorates the day that Major General Gordan Granger in Galveston, TX, as the last state to do so, finally followed the Presidential Executive Orders of the Emancipation Proclamation and officially freed all slaves in Texas, two years after President Lincoln’s orders.
What is Juneteenth and its history?
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. In 1865, as the Civil War was coming to an end, Major General Gordon Granger shared with the enslaved African American residents of Galveston, TX, of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19th, formally notifying them of their freedom. He also read General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.” – Juneteenth.com
Studies of history have shown that although President Lincoln’s declaration was presented on January 1st, two years prior, because of the lack of Union troops in the area it was not enforced until after General Lee surrendered in April of 1895, allowing forces to finally be strong enough to influence and overcome resistance. From that day forward June 19th was celebrated as Juneteenth.
Juneteenth celebrations have fallen and risen in popularity over the decades. There was an increase prior to the civil rights movements in the ’60s and ’70s and in the ’80s when Texas became the first state to declare June 19th as a state holiday. Many states followed suite and today 47 states and the District of Columbia have declared Juneteenth as an official state holiday. The future of permanent recognition of this day’s significance looks bright.
President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 17, 2021 making Juneteenth the 11th U.S. Federal Holiday. This is an achievement that organizations like the National Juneteenth Observation Foundation have been working towards for years.
The mission statement of the National Juneteenth Observation Foundation reads:
“To bring all Americans together to celebrate our common bond of freedom through the recognition, observance, education and historic preservation of Juneteenth in America.”
Ways to Commemorate and Celebrate
With over 144 million Americans vaccinated from COVID-19 according to Our World Data, and the numbers continuing to grow each day, many will have the opportunity to celebrate in-person across the U.S. There are still many ways to honor Juneteenth at home or virtually, click the button below for more information!
In years past, people across the country celebrated Juneteenth with barbecues, music, neighborhood parties, festivals and parades. While major celebrations including parades, historical reenactments, educational opportunities can be easily found in larger U.S. cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington D.C, there are still ways to commemorate and participate near you or even at home.
“Juneteenth is a unifying holiday,” said Steve Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, to USA Today in 2020. “It is the completion of the celebration of freedom in America.”
As we begin to re-immerse ourselves into our communities one can also celebrate Juneteenth by taking part in the events below! To learn more, click here.
- Find an event in your neighborhood.
- Host your own backyard party.
- Cook traditional foods.
- Reading books written by Black poets and authors.
- Supporting Black-owned businesses.
- Donate to organizations and charities.
- Listening to Black artists with friends and family.
- Watch Black tv shows and movies.
- Visit an exhibit or museum dedicated to Black culture.
- Volunteer In voter registration.
As we look back on the last year, with hardships due to the pandemic, life-changing circumstances and a racial injustice awaking for the Black Community within the U.S., there have been a lot of ups and downs. As we look to the future, we strive for change to eliminate systematic racism, remove microaggressions and create a safe space for the Black Community. AOII hopes to continue these conversations around racial education and advocation and hope you take time today and every day to learn, listen, love and grow.
Check out these website links provided by NewsWeek.com other Juneteenth Celebrations!
The Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture is holding a series of online events, including a community soundstage and educational programs for children. See the museum’s website for more details.
Philadelphia Juneteenth is usually celebrated with a parade and festival, though this year the parade will be replaced by a reflective art exhibition due to COVID-19. Go to the website for more details.
The Juneteenth Music Festival will be both in-person and broadcast live, featuring two days of performances around the city as well as a 2,000-strong parade. Find out more details on the website.
Jersey City, New Jersey
The annual Juneteenth celebration is back again in 2021, with thousands of people joining to celebrate. More details about the event can be found on the website.
New York City, New York
Juneteenth NY Festival will run a three-day summit, with one day online and the following two in-person with a parade and performances as part of the festivities. See the festival website for more details.
The State of Texas
Usually a major parade takes place in Houston, Texas, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic small events will take place all over the state. One such event is the BLCK Market Juneteenth Celebration hosted by the Buffalo Soldiers. See their website for more details.
The Juneteenth Atlanta Parade and Music Festival takes place over three days with two large stages of music. See the festival website for more details.