6 ways to celebrate and commemorate Juneteenth

Bastiaan Slabbers / NurPhoto / Getty Images

A Juneteenth Parade in Philadelphia, PA

You’ve probably heard of Juneteenth, but do you know the real meaning behind it?

This historic event dates back to June 19, 1865, when enslaved African Americans in Texas learned they were free. Although the Emancipation Proclamation declared that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebel southern states were free, it took more than two years for the news to spread to Texas and for authorities to announce there. that slavery had been abolished. Today’s commemorative holiday is now known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day and / or Emancipation Day, as it marks the day when all black people in the South were finally free. Slavery was banned across the country with the ratification of the 15th Amendment six months later.

“For African Americans in the United States, [Juneteenth] is really this independence day because before that, even though slaves had been freed in many other Confederate states, Texas remained a state where they continued to enslave people, ”says Greg Francis, 53 , a lawyer who focuses on civil rights. Understanding the history and its impact is important because there is a direct link to the issues of systemic racism today, he says.

Texas was the first state to make Juneteenth a statutory holiday, in 1980. Since then, many more have followed suit. Along with nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, conversations about the possibility of making Juneteenth a national holiday have resurfaced, and two-thirds of Americans are backing the effort, according to a Harris poll from 2020.

Whether you’ve known Juneteenth your entire life or just learned about this important day, it’s a day everyone can commemorate. Here are six ways to do it.

1. Learn the full story

Although June 19, 1865 marks June 19, the end of slavery has not been so clear-cut. That’s why it’s important to start by educating yourself and others about the full story of Juneteenth and the events leading up to it. The many resources available include the book juinteenth by Ralph Ellison and the movie Miss Juneteenth, this list of books to read with grandchildren about the holidays and this video tour of the Slavery and Freedom exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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