What is “Juneteenth”?

What is “Juneteenth”?

Haven’t heard of “Juneteenth?” Well, chances are you aren’t alone. Which in itself is a major issue. You can’t walk into a single grocer, mall or gas station without some type of decoration or sale commemorating the 4th of July, and rightfully so. It’s the day the nation was awarded its freedom, a day to be celebrated. So, why bring that up when discussing Juneteenth? Well, while white America was awarded its independence on July 4th, 1776, African Americans wouldn’t be awarded theirs until June 19th 1865. That’s right, almost 100 years later. “But wait, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1st, 1863” some of you history buffs might be thinking, and you would be correct. However, it wasn’t until June 19th 1865, that Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and officially announced the end of the civil war…. over two years later! Even though slavery had already been abolished on paper, the enslavers of Texas kept enslaved people working, and ignorant to that fact for two and a half years. TWO AND A HALF YEARS! Can you imagine that?? So, while the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation is what is taught in most schools as the “end of slavery”, the official day is the one, the only, the beautiful June 19th, now known as Juneteenth.

Image credit: National Museum of African American History & Culture

It’s a day that more and more Americans are becoming aware of as an actual holiday. A holiday still not yet recognized by our government but as the wave of knowledge continues, more and more companies are taking it upon themselves to honor it in the right way. This can only signify a wave of growth; one that brings with it hope for the future, as we continue to grow and mature as a nation, and as people that one day might truly live in a world where everyone is treated equally.

Juneteenth is a day of celebration, commemoration, and remembrance. With it being the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, it brings with it a vast array of ways to celebrate! From rodeos to barbecuing, baseball to fishing, celebrating this day is never a dull moment. Juneteenth is also a day for growth and self-improvement, bringing with it guest speakers whose focus is to educate the masses with hopes that future generations continue to flourish and thrive. 

Dress was equally important during traditional Juneteenth celebrations. During slavery, there were many laws on the books that directly prohibited how nice slaves could dress. So during the early days of celebrations, there were accounts of slaves burning their rags and instead dawning the clothes of their former ‘masters”. Truly an empowering and symbolic experience. Today dressing for the occasion is still taken seriously, especially by direct descents who can trace their connections to Juneteenth’s roots.

So, what exactly is Juneteenth? Is it a holiday? A day of remembrance? Is it a week of growth and hope with celebration at every turn? Good food and even better people? Honestly, it’s all of the above. It’s a holiday celebrated by African Americans, and hopefully soon recognized by the government and the greater population, so that the entire country can learn of its importance and celebrate its beauty together. It’s a day every bit as important as the Fourth of July, so today, fire up the grill, dress to impress and celebrate with family, the wonderful day that is Juneteenth.

Written by Alfonso Callabero

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