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This week, President Biden officially created Juneteenth as a national holiday. "Juneteenth is as significant to African Americans as it will be to Americans because we, too, are American, and it means freedom," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, a Democratic sponsor, said. "It is a journey of pain, brutality, separation and the racist hand of people held in bondage."
We sat down with our friend Idy Tanndy to learn more about the Juneteenth holiday.
Although slavery was declared illegal in the USA by the Emancipation Proclamation, hundreds of thousands of slaves were not informed of the new law. They remained enslaved for an additional two and a half years completely unaware that slavery was illegal.
This is why Juneteenth (June 19 1865) is such an important and widely celebrated holiday, recognized by 47 US states and now federally. Juneteenth is celebrated as the day slaves in Texas were declared free and the practice was finally nationally abolished.
In order to share the news of their freedom with the slaves themselves, thousands of (primarily African American) union soldiers traveled to the remote slave territories in Texas to announce the executive proclamation. General Granger read a decree that ordered the freeing of some 200,000 slaves in the state of Texas.
Afterwards, most former slaves left the rural areas of Texas to search for their long-lost relatives in other parts of the United States. The Juneteenth celebration began the following year with simple traditions of prayers and songs.
June 19th was turned into Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, day of liberation, or Freedom Day. Several traditions are specific to the Juneteenth celebration, including public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and singing traditional songs by African Americans.
The Juneteenth flag, which consists of half red and half blue with stars in the middle, is raised in celebration.
Other notable ways to acknowledge and celebrate Juneteenth are by having family reunions, community cookouts and street fairs, and supporting African American writers/artists. In many states, events like Miss Juneteenth contests and Juneteenth parades are organized in good fun to further celebrate African-Americans’ strength and culture. Personally, I will be celebrating this weekend with friends at some local music festivals in Oklahoma. Check out my instagram to see where we end up!
To learn more about this momentous day in the history and culture of African Americans, you can visit “The National Museum of African American History and Culture” in Washington, DC. There are also numerous articles online that offer more information and photos of historical events about Juneteenth.