What is Juneteenth?
June 19th, 1865 marked the beginning of a long journey towards freedom for thousands of enslaved African-Americans in the United States.
Soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas to declare the end of the Civil War — a devastating battle that was partially fought due to the disagreement on slavery in the South. Initially, slavery had been outlawed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. However, due to the war and lack of telecommunications, it took two years for the 250,000 slaves in Texas to hear the good news.
Now fast-forward 156 years later, and “Juneteenth” (a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth”) is a nationally celebrated holiday and even recognized by certain state governments. Due to the ongoing police brutality against African-Americans, Virginia recently recognized Juneteenth as an official state holiday.
Why is Juneteenth important?
Juneteenth is an opportunity for African-Americans and descendants of the African Diaspora to celebrate this historic day and reflect on the history of their people. From the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, Juneteenth is a day of recognizing the amazing milestones and achievements that have been accomplished while still looking forward to the road ahead. It commemorates the resilience and solidarity of this population and honors the generations before that have fought for this freedom. It’s important to understand that African American history is not always taught with the appropriate depth and significance in most public school systems. Therefore, Juneteenth is a day of promoting and cultivating knowledge and appreciation for African American history and culture.
How is Juneteenth celebrated?
Juneteenth is celebrated in different ways across the nation. Some choose to go on a “mecca” and travel to Houston’s Emancipation Park — a piece of land that was bought by former slaves as a memorial to mark their freedom. Some take the day off of work to enjoy gatherings and barbeques with friends and family and/or attend parades and festivals. Due to the large spiritual influence in the African-American community, prayer services and worship gatherings are also a common way for people to celebrate the holiday.
How do I celebrate?
It’s important for everyone to understand the history behind the holiday and find opportunities to participate in the celebration. One of the easiest ways to join in is by supporting your locally owned and operated black business. Check out https://www.supportblackowned.com/ to find black-owned shops, restaurants, and services in your neighborhood!