What to know about Juneteenth: Holiday marking Emancipation Proclamation takes on extra importance in 2020
N’dea Yancey-Bragg | USA TODAY | June 18, 2020
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Juneteenth’s relation to slavery. It celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation, but the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t apply to all states in the USA. The 13th Amendment brought an end to slavery.
On June 19, Americans around the country will celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation in the USA.
This year, the annual celebration of freedom comes as the country grapples with its long-standing history of systemic racism, as well as the fate of its Confederate monuments, flags and symbols amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racism after the death of George Floyd.
“Juneteenth is a unifying holiday. It is the completion of the celebration of freedom in America,” said Steve Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.
Juneteenth is often celebrated with joyful community and family gatherings, but many of these events will probably go virtual this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here is what you should know about Juneteenth:
What is Juneteenth?
On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed a reluctant community in Galveston, Texas, that President Abraham Lincoln had freed enslaved people in rebel states two and a half years earlier. He pressed locals to comply with the directive.
Although Lincoln proclaimed the emancipation of enslaved people, effective Jan. 1, 1863, enslavers were responsible for telling them that they were free, and some ignored the order until Union troops arrived to enforce it, according to Cliff Robinson, founder of Juneteenth.com. Texas was the last Confederate state to have the proclamation announced.
Though the story of Texas’ emancipation is the most widely known, Williams said, other significant events in the history of emancipation took place on and around that date. He said the first known Juneteenth celebrations began in 1866 and spread across the country as African Americans migrated to new cities.
Today, 47 states and Washington, D.C., recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday. Juneteenth celebrations have been seen in episodes of television shows such as “Black-ish” and “Atlanta”.
Activists push for wider recognition, including a designation as a national holiday and an acknowledgment by Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.
“Federal recognition is really what our job is,” Williams said.
Where does the name ‘Juneteenth’ come from?
Juneteenth is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” in honor of the day that Granger announced the abolition of slavery in Texas. The holiday is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.
How do people celebrate Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is typically celebrated with educational activities for children, parades, concerts, beauty pageants and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, Williams said.
At cookouts, he said, red food and drink, such as strawberry soda and red velvet cake, are traditional. Red, white and blue are on the Juneteenth flag. The color red symbolizes that “from the middle passage to George Floyd, our blood has been spilled across America,” Williams said. Read full story here »