“Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans.”
In Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order Number 3, which stated that enslaved people were free. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863, the enslaved people in Galveston did not get word of this freedom until almost two and half years later. Juneteenth is the shortened version of June Nineteenth, a celebration that took place a year later in 1866. Juneteenth has been celebrated in Galveston, Texas, ever since. In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, “nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” which is why this independent celebration is still so important to be observed.
How Is Juneteenth Celebrated?
Now across many cities in our country, Black Americans celebrate this holiday as our independence day. Juneteenth is referred to as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day,” or “Emancipation Day.” These celebrations include prayer and religious services, speeches, educational events, family gatherings and barbeques, and festivals with music, food, and dancing. Drinking strawberry soda is a long-standing tradition of the day.
Time of Reflection & Action
Check to see what your city or town is doing to commemorate Juneteenth. This is an opportunity to partake in the festivities and to support locally owned Black businesses that are usually the vendors at these events. Hopefully, this will lead to supporting Black-owned businesses throughout the year. Some companies have decided to make Juneteenth a holiday. Also, 47 states and the District of Columbia are observing or celebrating the holiday. Maybe your state is one of those states. Furthermore, see if your state has legislation to make Juneteenth a paid holiday.
Plus, it looks like Juneteenth is close to becoming a federal holiday. On June 15, 2021, the Senate passed the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. The House of Representatives has to vote on the bill, then President Biden would have to sign it. Let us continue to learn the fullness of our American history.
Below are the resources that I used to write about this holiday. There are so many more resources out there. One of my favorite historians, Annette Gordon-Reed, wrote the book On Juneteenth, published this year. These resources can help lead you on a journey to commemorating this holiday that many Black Americans have been celebrating for years.
Resources About Juneteenth
- So You Want to Learn About Juneteenth? is a New York Times article written by Derrick Bryson Taylor that gives the history of the holiday and how the holiday is celebrated.
- What Is Juneteenth? written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., which was initially published in The Root, is now available on PBS’s website. Gates writes about the first Juneteenth, other emancipation anniversaries that we can observe, and the history around the holiday.
- The Smithsonian National Museum wrote the Historical Legacy of Juneteenth of African American History & Culture. This post has pictures from the Texas 1900 Juneteenth, a picture of the Emancipation Proclamation, and a brief history of the holiday.
- What Is Juneteenth? written by Elizabeth Nix on history.com, goes into the history of Juneteenth.
- The Juneteenth Book Festival Symposium on Black Literature & Literacy is the symposium recording that occurred on June 19, 2015.
- Honoring Juneteenth Through Art in Galveston is a New York Times article written by Alina Tugend and published on May 20, 2021. The article highlights the 5,000 square foot mural, entitled “Absolute Equality,” which was created to commemorate the place where Gen. Gordon Granger issued the general order number 3.
- History of Juneteenth is on the Juneteenth.com website and is a resource about the holiday.
Discover more on Juneteenth and history in Infobase’s acclaimed American History and African-American History databases. Simply by using the suggested search term “Juneteenth” users will discover a range of articles on this topic, from critically acclaimed reference titles such as the Encyclopedia of African-American Politics, Third Edition and Civil War and Reconstruction, Third Edition.
- What Is Juneteenth?: An Article from African-American History
- Five new Topic Centers supporting multicultural and ethnic studies have just been added to American History, including one on African-American history. Learn more here.
- The Harlem Renaissance’s World Influence
- Infobase’s Diversity Toolkit: resources that celebrate and support diversity—and so much more!—at all levels.