Juneteenth commemorates the end of the United States’ historical practice of slavery, which is celebrated on June 19. As Frederick Douglass eloquently stated, the Fourth of July, or “Independence Day,” does not signify freedom for all. In this sense, Juneteenth is the actual “Independence Day” as it celebrates the “true freedom” for ALL Americans.
It is something to be proud of for all Americans. Whether you grew up celebrating Juneteenth or are unfamiliar with the festival, here’s what you need to know about its meaning, how it came to be, and why it is so vital to so many people.
When you hear about the abolishment of slavery in the United States, you immediately think about Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation proclamation. But even after the emancipation proclamation by Lincoln, many African Americans remained enslaved for several years. That’s because Lincoln’s decree was just a means to preserve the Union not to abolish slavery.
Gordon Granger, a Union commander, came to Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. That was two months after Confederate leader Robert E. Lee surrendered at Virginia. He informed enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and the end of the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation, which Lincoln had issued more than two and a half years before, became effective only after Granger’s statement.
Even though the government did not abolish slavery in all states until December of 1865, June 19 became Juneteenth. After which, people celebrate this day to mark freedom with enormous festivities.
Many people worked together to make this day of liberty a national holiday. Opal Lee, a Fort Worth activist, is one notable figure who campaigned for this achievement. Recently on June 15 after the senate’s approval, this day became the federal government’s 11th recognized holiday. Since then, at least 45 states and the District of Columbia have taken steps to declare the day a national holiday.
The first celebration became an annual event, and with the addition of descendants, it expanded in popularity over time. Men and women who were once slaves, as well as their descendants, make an annual trip back to Galveston for various celebrations on this day.
After a group of African-American businessmen and businessmen in Houston purchased 10 acres of property, they established Emancipation Park in 1872. This park provided a venue for celebrations of the annual celebration of Juneteenth.
People celebrate Juneteenth in a variety of ways, from BBQ cookouts to supporting Black-owned companies. On Juneteenth, people serve various soul food dishes and desserts. People utilize red in delicacies made for Juneteenth celebrations to pay homage to the bloodshed by African-Americans during slavery.
Earlier festivities focused on sharing stories of enslaved generations and praising Black children as symbols of newfound freedom. This day is important to understand how far we have come as a society in terms of racial equality. This day is an encouragement to the supporters of the Black community who frequently march and parade in modern-day commemorations to raise awareness and continue fighting for racial equality more than 150 years after the Civil War ended.