Understanding the History and Significance of Juneteenth
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but it would take over two years for all enslaved people to secure their freedom. Juneteenth, which is short for June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed the remaining enslaved people of their emancipation.
Families and communities across the nation have honored Juneteenth with parades, gatherings and festivals for generations. However, it wasn’t until June 17, 2021, that Juneteenth was officially recognized as a federal holiday in the United States.
Why is Juneteenth Significant?
Despite the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which proclaimed that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” slavery remained legal in the United States. Consequently, Independence Day on July 4th does not hold the same significance for all Americans, particularly Black and African Americans.
June 19, 1865, was a pivotal day in American history. Today, it serves as an opportunity for Black and African Americans to honor their past, present, and future and express gratitude for their ancestors. Moreover, it is a day for everyone to celebrate and acknowledge the resilience of Black and African Americans throughout history.
How can I celebrate Juneteenth?
Juneteenth should be a day of learning, reflection, listening and engagement. We might not be able to participate in organized celebrations in-person, but there are some productive things we can do, including educating ourselves and supporting Black businesses, to meaningfully observe Juneteenth 2023.
- Register to vote
- Contact elected officials to advocate for social and racial justice
- Support Black-owned businesses
- “Four Hundred Souls,” by Dr. Ibram X Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
- “The Little Devil in America,” by Hanif Abdurraqib
- “Juneteenth,” by Ralph Ellison
- “On Juneteenth,” by Annette Gordon-Reed
Learn from Relevant Films or Shows
- Amend: The Fight for America
- Hidden Figures