Juneteenth: June 19...


Juneteenth, America’s second Independence Day, honors and celebrates the liberation of enslaved people in America and their never-ending perseverance and strength in fighting for equality. 


Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.  www.juneteenth.com


Although Juneteenth is recognized as the day all slaves were finally granted freedom, it did not mean the end of slavery in the United States.  The Emancipation Proclamation only granted freedom to slaves living in “states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union” and did not address slaves that were still living in captivity in northern borderline states.  Freedom would ultimately be granted to those in northern states with the adoption of the 13th amendment in January 1865; two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 8 months after Juneteenth.

Juneteenth was celebrated by former slaves with large outside gatherings that included activities such as barbecuing, fishing, and rodeos and would often focus on education and prayer.  Elders within Black communities would share stories of their days in slavery and promote reading and self-improvement which had previously been illegal for slaves.  Food was also a bit part of communing for the day.  Traditionally “red” food and drinks, like Red Velvet Cake and Strawberry Soda, were served as a symbol of the resilience of the enslaved.  Because slaves were not permitted nice clothing and often wore rags, dress became an important part of the day.  Many attendees would dress in their finest clothes on Juneteenth, and some would even toss their “old rags” of clothing in the river and wear the clothes of their former slaves owners.

Today, you can celebrate Juneteenth by attending a local Juneteenth event, hosting a Barbeque and serving traditional foods and drink, further educating yourself about Juneteenth, and supporting black-owned businesses. 

Check out these websites to learn more or to find and event near you:

Juneteenth:  www.juneteenth.com

Jefferson School African American Heritage Center:  https://jeffschoolheritagecenter.org/

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture:  https://nmaahc.si.edu/

How to Celebrate:  https://www.purewow.com/family/how-to-celebrate-juneteenth