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- Juneteenth is a time to celebrate the resilience and strength of the African American community.
- For those who are celebrating for the first time, we recommend that you do so in a way that honors the history of the holiday.
- Celebrate by supporting Black-owned businesses, restaurants, causes and more.
Juneteenth, or June 19, commemorates the last enslaved African Americans freed from slavery in 1865. The holiday is generally celebrated in the southern United States and has grown nationwide in recent years. This year the holiday falls on a Saturday, leaving endless possibilities to celebrate and commemorate the day.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in 1863, it would take another two years for this news to reach the deepest parts of the South. Finally, on June 19, 1865, Union Army soldiers arrive in Gavelston, Texas, and announce the end of slavery, marking the start of the June 10 celebration. “The significance of Juneteenth is that freedom has come, but it took the Emancipation Proclamation, it took a Civil War, and it also took the 13th Amendment to free everyone,” said Mary Elliot, Curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The first recorded celebrations of Juneteenth took place around 1867, and the holiday was originally celebrated in communities of Gavelston, Austin, and Houston in Texas, and other southern states through parades, prayers, and other festivities. However, over time the holiday became more popular and widely celebrated.
With many companies making Juneteenth an official corporate holiday and at least 45 states officially recognizing the holiday, it has become more important than ever that we learn to celebrate it in a way that truly honors its history.
“What is important is to see Juneteenth as a celebration but also as a commemoration,” said Elliot, who stressed that he sees Juneteenth as an extension of other American celebrations of freedom such as the 4th. July. Juneteenth is an important time for all Americans to reflect on the true meaning of freedom. “If everyone is going to celebrate this holiday or commemorate this occasion, I think this is a very important time to pause and reflect on freedom and slavery in this nation,” Elliot said.
We’ve compiled five ways to celebrate and commemorate Juneteenth this year, by supporting black-owned businesses and restaurants, reading books by black authors and, of course, supporting various causes and organizations. Elliot also recommends taking a vacation to learn more about the history of slavery and the treatment of African Americans in this country by reading relevant historical documents, such as General Gordon Granger’s General Order # 3, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. “People use Juneteenth to empower themselves, to raise issues and to think about where they’re coming from, where they are and where they still need to go,” Elliot said. If you’re looking to celebrate this year, these five options are a great place to start.