Must-Know Facts About Juneteenth
Today is Juneteenth, and we are so excited to celebrate this holiday with the Black community by spreading more awareness. Juneteenth is the oldest holiday celebrated within the African American community. This day signifies a lot of history, pain, and achievements. It is the day that changed the trajectory of many lives, so we want to honor the community and share this moment with them. Here are some must-know facts about Juneteenth.
What is Juneteenth?
As mentioned above, Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day, is one of the oldest national holidays celebrated by the African American community. Its name is short for June 19th, and it signifies the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to ensure all enslaved people had been freed. On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that as of January 1, 1963, “all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union ‘shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.’” This document, unfortunately, only applied to enslaved people in the Confederacy. It did not apply to the border states that gave their loyalty to the Union. Although the act would not free the approximately 4 million enslaved men, women, and children in the United States, it did, however, pave the way for the adoption of the 13th Amendment, which was passed in January 1865 and ratified in December 1865.
Even though the 13th Amendment had passed and the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed, not every enslaved person knew they were free. So when Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, TX, he read the federal order abolishing slavery. It states:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
Two hundred and fifty thousand enslaved people were freed that day.
On June 19, 1866, freed Texans organized and celebrated what we know as Jubilee Day. This day, of course, became an annual celebration. Over the decades of celebrating and as freed Texans migrated to different states, this event became a national sensation among the Black community. African Americans filled the streets of their neighborhoods with food, laughter, and music. Activities such as rodeos, fishing, baseball games, barbecuing, and more became typical Juneteenth traditions. This day was also used as a day of education, empowerment, and prayer. Elders and guest speakers educated the new generation about the past while looking to the future during prayer services.
Jubilee Day signifies so much more than slaves being freed from their masters. It represents the day African Americans got to be themselves. Slaves were not allowed to dress nicely, read books, and eat certain foods, so this day became a day when Black people got to do it all. There have been accounts of newly freed slaves taking their rags off and throwing them in the creek. They would then dress in beautiful garments that had been taken from the plantations they were enslaved to. They also ate meats such as lamb, pork, and beef, which were foods that were not available to them every day. They took all they had and shared it with each other as they celebrated and strived for something greater.
Jubilee Day Today
Although Juneteenth has been celebrated for decades among the Black community, it did not become a national holiday until June 17th of last year. President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, marking it as the newest federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was added in 1963. The day gained national attention after the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, and after the Black Lives Matter 2020 Movement began against police brutality, systematic oppression, violence, and racism against Black Americans in 2020. Black people all over the US still celebrate and spread awareness of this day to keep the tradition alive, especially since Juneteenth is not taught much in school.
How Can We Celebrate Juneteenth With the Black Community
Well, for starters, as we always say, you can start by educating yourself. Education is powerful. We encourage you to learn from Black voices to understand the pilot of their many struggles. You can also be a part of the solution by standing against the systematic oppression they face even today. You can do this within your community and peers or on a larger scale by saying something when you see someone doing something wrong, spreading awareness, and teaching your children to be better than many of our ancestors. We can also support them by investing in their businesses and organizations.
Again, we are all in this together. If we want a better nation, there have to be major changes, and change starts within. Happy Juneteenth!