Juneteenth is a nationally celebrated holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday gets its name by combining the date it is recognized, June 19th.
In January 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared all enslaved people in Confederate states to be freed. At this time, millions of slaves were not actually freed since the proclamation only applied to people in the Confederate states, not the bordering states associated with and in support of the Union.
In Confederate states, the proclamation also needed to be enforced by the Union troops. After the Civil War ended, it took time for troops to travel, share the outcome of the war, and widely implement the abolishment of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation should have applied to the enslaved people of Texas, there weren’t many troops around to enforce the ruling or share the news that all slaves should be free.
On June 19, 1865, federal troops finally arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform all 250,000 enslaved people that they would be free. Six months later, the 13th Amendment was ratified, officially extending the initial proclamation to apply and free all enslaved people of the United States.
A year after the accomplishments in Texas, freedmen organized a Jubilee Day to celebrate and commemorate June 19th as an Independence, Freedom, or Emancipation Day. As Black Texans migrated to other regions throughout the country, Jubilee Day traditions spread and ensued, becoming an annual celebration for decades to come. In June 2021, President Biden officially recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday and signed it into law.
Today people know Jubilee Day as Juneteenth and commemorate the holiday with big celebrations such as festivals, parades, picnics, or any opportunity to bring people together.
Ways You Can Celebrate Juneteenth
- Attend an event in your neighborhood. There are a lot of events scheduled for Juneteenth weekend in Washington DC.
- Support a Black-owned business .Eatblackowned.com is the internet’s largest directory of Black-owned restaurants.
- Visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture and learn more about our nation’s upbringings.
- Learn the history of Juneteenth food and try a new recipe.
- Explore new music from Black artists. Listen to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song known as the Black National Anthem.
- Support Black artists and creators. Share their art and messages.
- Gather with your loved ones, acknowledge, and commemorate the holiday by being together.