What is Juneteenth?

What is Juneteenth, and Why Should We Celebrate?

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free.  The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day,” or “Emancipation Day.”

Some of us grew up aware of Juneteenth, and others have never heard of it. However you grew up Juneteenth is something we should all celebrate.

How Did Juneteenth Originate?

June 19, 1865, is a day that stands out in the history of the struggle for freedom in the United States. It was the day Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army traveled to Galveston, Texas, to read federal orders announcing that all previously enslaved persons in Texas were free and that the Civil War had ended.    The Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier.  Texas was the most remote of the slave states, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent.

How is Juneteenth Celebrated?

Picnics, family reunions, music festivals, historical reenactments, beauty contests are some traditional Juneteenth celebrations that have been held across the country. Nearly every state now officially recognizes the holiday. In some celebrations, men and women who had been enslaved, and their descendants, made an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston.

Why Does Juneteenth Matter?

Recent events, like the tragic loss of George Floyd to police brutality, demonstrate that acceptance of the concept of freedom and respect for each individual regardless of race, gender, religious affiliation, hasn’t yet been instilled in every person. To educate those who still hold doubts about human rights, to prevent loss of the rights we have already achieved, we must celebrate holidays like Juneteenth.