7 Juneteenth Facts Every Black Person Should Know
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is celebrated on June 19th every year. And while this holiday doesn’t get the national recognition it deserves, every black person in the United States needs to know all about it.
If you were to choose a day to celebrate in honor of the end of slavery, you’d be hard pressed to find the exact date. There was the day Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation (September 22, 1862), the day the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect (January 1, 1863), the day the 13th Amendment passed Congress (January 31, 1865), or even the day the 13th Amendment was ratified (December 6, 1865). But over time, Juneteenth has become the single day that most Black Americans have chosen to celebrate. And if you don’t know about it, it’s time to get educated.
Here are 8 important things to know about Juneteenth:
1. Commemorates the ending of slavery
Juneteenth celebrates June 19th 1868, the day that Major General Gordon Granger led Union soldiers to Galveston, Texas with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This is officially the last place to receive word that slavery had ceased. This is an obvious cause for celebration, but because of America’s complicated relationship with slavery, it has been tough settling on just one date to celebrate the end of the evil institution.
2. This “official” end of slavery was 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation
Common belief is that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation proclamation brought the end to slavery, but that is misleading. This speech was given more or less at the midpoint of the Civil War. So, while compelling and important to remember, President Lincoln’s words only really freed slaves that were living in Confederate lands liberated by the Union. This couldn’t be highlighted more by Juneteenth’s date, roughly 2 1/2 years after President Lincoln delivered his address.
3. Juneteenth began as a mostly Texan holiday
As Juneteenth has roots in Texas, is has historically been centralized in Texas. Many dates have been heralded as moments of celebration with regard to the end of slavery, including the day that the Emancipation Proclamation was meant to take effect, January 1st. But for years, it was only Texans that held June 19th in high esteem.
4. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination indirectly led to Juneteenth’s growth in prominence
The main reason Juneteenth has grown in prominence was the migration of black families out of Texas. As families that celebrated Juneteenth moved out of the state, they brought the celebration with them. But this movement was bolstered by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. After he passed and his planned Poor Peoples’ March on Washington started to not meet its goals, the Juneteenth celebration brought a respectable end to the effort. And those present brought the tradition home with them across the country.
5. Juneteenth has yet to be recognized as a national holiday
Despite its significance and continually growing support across the country, the U.S Government has yet to officially recognize the holiday. Every effort that has been mounted has been unsuccessful. On the state level, 45 U.S. states and Washington D.C. recognize Juneteenth as either a state holiday or ceremonial holiday, with Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota being the only states offering no official recognition.
6. Red foods served are meant to commemorate the blood spilled throughout slavery
Barbecue is a staple of Juneteenth celebrations, like many other summertime celebrations. But that food’s meaning for Juneteenth is deeper. It is rooted in slavery and the tradition of slaves cooking whatever they had in whatever way they could. More symbolically, red foods like Strawberry Soda, red rice (rice with tomatoes), watermelon, red velvet cake, and Strawberry Pie are prepared to commemorate the blood spilled during slavery.
7. Ralph Ellison’s unfinished novel Juneteenth isn’t about the holiday, at least explicitly
Author Ralph Ellison is most known for his seminal work Invisible Man. One of his subsequent works, Juneteenth is not about the holiday itself, but it does pull from the almost magical appeal of history and memory. While this work is held in high esteem, unfortunately it is unfinished.
Photo: Open Source/Pixabay
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