What is Juneteenth? How is it celebrated and why does it matter? June 19 is one of the oldest celebrations, honoring the ending of slavery in the United States. It has been known as Independence Day or Freedom Day, as the slaves would call it. Back in 1862, President Lincoln had announced the end of slavery which became the Emancipation Proclamation but didn’t become official until January 1, 1863 and by that time, it still wasn’t enforced until two years later in 1865 after the Confederacy collapsed.
Juneteenth was officially celebrated on June 19, the day, Major General Gordon Granger and his union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to announce, to the enslaved “ The people of Texas are informed that in, accordance with a proclamation from Executive of the United States., all slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor’, which meant in others words that the Civil War has ended and they were free but before the announcements, slave owners weren’t telling slaves they were free and continued to enforced slavery so, these soldiers were spreading this news among the enslaved that they crossed paths with.
Freedom didn’t happen overnight but the formerly enslaved couldn’t help but to rejoice and began celebrating the end to slavery on June 19, 1866 with spiritual readings or picnics and that’s how the name Juneteenth was created by combining June and the word nineteen by the formerly enslaved.
Years later, in 1872, a group of former slaves purchased ten acres of land worth eight hundred dollars to have annual Juneteenth celebrations that are still being held at to this very day and the celebrations consist of picnics, storytelling, parades, festivals and barbecues.
Juneteenth was also broadcasted as a national holiday in Texas in 1980 and was observed by 45 states besides Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota and North Dakota which has failed to acknowledge or adopt Juneteenth as a state holiday which sparked an outrage by many African Americans but nothing has changed since the 1980’s so, Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation, created the Juneteenth flag, wanting to make a more empowering effect.
The Juneteenth flag was created with a star of Texas and colors, red, white and blue representing new freedom, a new beginning and liberation.
Why does Juneteenth matters? It matters because it is a part of history that represents the blood, the sweat and the tears of the enslaved and it’s symbolic to celebrate this special day due to the consistent enslavement and oppression so, go out there and celebrate your freedom with friends and families, having in mind that millions of our ancestors weren’t able to see or celebrate this day, Happy Juneteenth.