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Celebrating Juneteenth: A historical milestone for freedom and equality

A red, black and green heart

It’s important for our communities to recognize and celebrate the diverse histories and cultures that have contributed to our nation. And one day of profound historical significance and celebration is Juneteenth. In this article, we’ll explore the history of Juneteenth, why it’s important and why we celebrate it.

The history of Juneteenth

Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the day when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with 2,000 Union troops to announce that the Civil War had ended, and that more than 250,000 enslaved people were now free by executive decree.

This announcement came two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which officially outlawed slavery in Confederate states on January 1, 1863. Despite this, enforcement generally relied on the advance of Union troops. With Texas being a remote Confederate state, there was a low presence of Union forces, which led to the delay in implementing the proclamation. June 19, 1865, became a day of liberation and hope.

Why Juneteenth is important

Juneteenth is not only a celebration of the end of slavery but also a recognition of the ongoing struggle for equality and justice, serving as a reminder of the resilience and determination of African Americans throughout history. By celebrating Juneteenth, we can reflect on the progress made while also focusing on the work that still needs to be done to achieve true equality. 

Why we celebrate Juneteenth 

We celebrate Juneteenth with parades, cultural events, educational programs and family gatherings, which often include traditional foods, music and performances that highlight African American culture and history. Celebrating Juneteenth allows communities to come together to honor the past, celebrate the present and commiserate on a future that provides equality and freedom for all. 

Interesting Juneteenth trivia

  • Texas was the first state to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday in 1980. 

  • Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 and is officially known as Juneteenth National Independence Day. 

  • Juneteenth is also referred to as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day and Jubilee Day. 

  • The Juneteenth flag was created by activist Ben Haith and features a bursting white star in the middle of red and blue. 

  • Strawberry soda was once a synonymous beverage in Juneteenth celebrations. 

Juneteenth learning resources 

If you’re interested in learning more about Juneteenth’s history and significance, consider the following books, documentaries/films and websites. 

Books: 
  • “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson 

  • “Juneteenth: A Novel” by Ralph Ellison 

  • “On Juneteenth” by Annette Gordon-Reed 

  • “The Underground Railroad Records” by William Still 

  • “Remembering Slavery,” by Ira Berlin and Marc Favreau 

Documentaries and films:
Websites:

Summing it all up 

By educating ourselves about Juneteenth, we honor the legacy of those who fought for freedom. And we also acknowledge the importance of continuing the pursuit of equality and justice for all. Embracing this day can enhance our understanding and help us to appreciate the diversity that makes up our communities.