Juneteenth celebrations have been taking place for over 150 years and since it became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, it has become even more popular across the nation. However, many people are still not sure of the significance of the holiday or its origins. In this article, we’ll look briefly at how the holiday started and why it is important to celebrate it.
Background to the holiday
The Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed on January 1, 1863, declared that all enslaved people participating in the rebellion against the Union were forever free. This did not include all enslaved people as according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration it only applied to states that had broken away from the United States and was not implemented in the loyal border states.
Slavery went on in Texas but on June 19, 1865, things changed. Union troops went to Galveston Bay in the state to announce that the enslaved people had been granted freedom. The US General Gordon Granger announced that every slave was now free. The name “Juneteenth” was chosen by the newly freed people to honor the day.
How is it celebrated?
The enslaved people initially celebrated Juneteenth by praying and having family gatherings. According to face2faceafrica.com, there is the Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas which was purchased by newly freed people in 1872.
Texas was the first state to make it a state holiday in 1980. The celebrations continue today with a similar sense of victory and pride. People all over the US celebrate Juneteenth in various ways such as having cookouts, attending city parades and festivals, and supporting black businesses and charities.
While racism continues in many forms today, Juneteenth is a reminder of the strength black people have to rise above in any situation and continue to challenge injustice. It is a day when persons of all races can join together to commemorate a critical event in African American history and support the progress of the black community.