Juneteenth is observed annually on June 19th and was officially declared a federal holiday by President Biden in 2021. As Juneteenth becomes more widely recognized, there may still be some who have questions about what exactly this holiday is, what it means for the culture, and how to celebrate it. No worries, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s BOSSIP’s quick guide to Juneteenth.
What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
According to The White House, on June 19, 1865 — nearly nine decades after our Nation’s founding, and more than 2 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally received word that they were free from bondage. The first Juneteenth in 1866 was celebrated with food, singing, and the reading of spirituals — and it commemorated newly freed Black people taking pride in their progress. Today, the holiday is recognized globally as a celebration of slaves’ true emancipation.
Why We Celebrate
While civil rights for African Americans has been an uphill battle for hundreds of years, June 19th became a holiday that symbolized hope for previously enslaved people.
History books teach us about the Civil War, also referred to as the Second American Revolution, and explain how the Northern and Southern states began fighting over slavery and economic power in 1861. However, history books tend to leave out key information. The Union marched on the Confederate army, and Congress passed the Confiscation Act in 1862. On Jan 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that “all persons held as slaves … are, and henceforth, shall be free.” Unfortunately, it was not until two years later that slaves in the southernmost reaches of the nation became aware of the document.
The Senate passed the 13th Amendment in 1864. This constitutional amendment proclaimed that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” While the Civil War ended after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia, it wasn’t until three months later when Texans got the news.
How You Can Celebrate Juneteenth
If you are looking for ways to commemorate this Juneteenth, you may start with a color scheme. Red, black, and green are colors associated with African Pride. According to AARP, red is the color associated with the holiday, as it symbolizes sacrifice and transition.
You could gather with friends and family over a homemade meal and fellowship while rocking wearing red, or There is no wrong way to celebrate, as long as you’re celebrating our history and acknowledging those lost along the way. Juneteenth holiday dishes often consist of red velvet cake, cornbread, greens, and barbecued meats. This Juneteenth also coincides with Father’s Day.
Can you say cookout?
Juneteenth is also a great time to support Black-owned businesses; like Beyoncé who exclusively wore Black designers during a stop on her Renaissance tour in honor of Juneteenth.
By patronizing your local B.O.B, you are supporting the dreams of their ancestors. Grab a friend and go buy something nice from a Black business. You also may also be interested in attending Juneteenth events. Many cities have great offerings for the holiday, both online and virtually. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s website has a full lineup of digital resources to mark the holiday. Look into your local support organizations for more Juneteenth event information in your area.
Whichever way you choose to celebrate, have a civil, safe, and happy Juneteenth!