Here are five things to know about the Juneteenth holiday:
1. What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, which is short for June 19th, is a 155-year-old holiday that celebrates the emancipation of African Americans from slavery in the United States.
“Juneteenth today celebrates African-American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures,” according to Juneteenth.com in an explanation of the holiday.
On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans that the Civil War was over and slavery had been abolished.
Granger publicly read General Order No. 3, which said: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
Granger’s announcement implemented the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, more than 2-1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln first issued it in 1863 . Initially, the presidential order caused little change in Texas due to the lack of Union troops to enforce it.
2. Is Juneteenth A National Holiday?
Juneteenth is not a national holiday, but most states have officially recognized the day as such. In 1980, Texas became the first state to designate Juneteenth as a holiday. In the time since, 45 other states have decided to officially recognize the day, according to The New York Times.
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution in 2018 designating June 19 as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” but it has not yet reached the House of Representatives. Twitter, Nike, the National Football League, Vox and other major businesses have also recently announced they would recognize Juneteenth as a paid company holiday in 2020.
3. The Importance Of Juneteenth
In an uncomplicated respect, Juneteenth “is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States,” according to Juneteenth.com.
Harvard professor and African American historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes about the importance and meaning of the holiday in The Root magazine as the following:
“An occasion for gathering lost family members, measuring progress against freedom and inculcating rising generations with the values of self-importance and racial uplift. This was accomplished through readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, religious sermons and spirituals, the preservation of slave food delicacies … as well as the incorporation of new games and traditions, from baseball to redoes and, later, stock car races and overhead flights.”
4. How Is Juneteenth Celebrated?
In the late 19th century, the day was celebrated by praying and spending time with family. Additionally, men and women who had been enslaved, and younger generations, would make an annual pilgrimage to Galveston, according to The New York Times.
As the celebrations developed over the years, time with family and prayer remained a fundamental aspect of the holiday: “Juneteenth almost always focused on education and self-improvement. Thus, often guest speakers are brought in and the elders are called upon to recount the events of the past. Prayer services were also a major part of these celebrations,” according to Juneteenth.com.
The website also adds that food, games and fashion grew to become a more prominent aspect of the celebrations.
5. Are There Other Names For Juneteenth?
The holiday isn’t always called Juneteenth.
The day is also sometimes referred to as:
- “Jubilee Day”
- “Juneteenth Independence Day”
- “Cel-Liberaton Day”
- “Freedom Day”
- “Emancipation Day”