Celebrating Juneteenth

Celebrating Juneteenth

Governor Andrew Cuomo declared Juneteenth an official public holiday in New York last year, in hopes that the day “will serve as a day to recognize the achievements of the Black community, while also providing an important opportunity for self-reflection on the systemic injustices.”

On June 19, 1865, Union Army general Gordon Granger read out Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, freeing enslaved people in a portion of what was the last un-emancipated state. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilation Day, and Liberation Day, has been informally celebrated since 1865, primarily in African American communities. Today, the only three states that do not officially recognize the holiday are North Dakota, South Dakota, and Hawaii. The first state to formally recognize the day was Texas in 1980.

More and more corporations have announced they will recognize Juneteenth as  a paid holiday, and an increasing amount of supporters are calling for Juneteenth to receive federal recognition.

Juneteenth celebrations starting in 1865 saw freed Black people in Texas dressing up in their finest clothes to gather together and listen to speeches. The earliest celebrations created traditions that continue to occur today, including readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, religious services, and even cookouts and family events. Today there are over 200 official events planned around the country.

It is important to note that enslavement in America continued long after June 19, 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to border states that were still in the Union at the time, which meant that remaining enslaved people would not be granted freedom until the 13th Amendment was ratified on December 18, 1865, nearly six months later. And even after that, Black Americans endured decades of oppressive labor conditions, leaving Juneteenth as a day of mourning for many descendants of enslaved African Americans.