WHAT IS JUNETEENTH AND WHY IS IT CELEBRATED
Juneteenth is met with a mixture of joy and pain for many. Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of enslaved Black people at the end of the Civil War. The word itself is a mix of “June” and “nineteenth”. Now recognized as a federal holiday, the significance of Juneteenth continues to integrate into the lives of Americans in a variety of ways.
Credit: Toyin Ojih Odutola, “First Night at Boarding School” Whitney Museum of American Art
THE HISTORY OF THE JUNETEENTH HOLIDAY
On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were informed that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished. Throughout the following years including the present, annual Juneteenth celebrations are held within communities. Also known as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day”, many families mark the occasion with food, prayer, and for some, annual pilgrimages to Galveston. In 1872, a group of black ministers and businessmen in Houston came together to purchase 10 acres of land which they named Emancipation Park. This location is now a site for the annual celebrations.
While Juneteenth has been celebrated for 155 years, 2020 was one of the most poignant years for the holiday. In 2020, the month of June was met with international protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020 and the significance of Juneteenth was brought to the forefront as Black Americans and people of all races shouted their cries that Black Lives Matter. These powerful protests sparked calls for widespread systemic reform, and America is now forced to confront the fact that deep inequality still exists. Structural racism can no longer be ignored.
JUNETEENTH IS RECOGNIZED AS A NATIONAL HOLIDAY
IN 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making June 19th a federal holiday to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Black people. The holiday is now recognized in 45 states
Events are held across the country in several capacities, including parades, festivals, and various large events for the community. While Galveston, Texas is still the location for many large-scale annual Juneteenth events, there is a growing national presence for observance.
HOW WILL JUNETEENTH BE CELEBRATED THIS YEAR?
There are many ways to celebrate Juneteenth. Whether you decide to participate in a social gathering or not, here are some ideas to consider:
Search for local events that are taking place within your community.
Invite friends or family over for good food, conversation and reflection.
Read a book by an African American author. We recommend "The Annotated African American Folktales" by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar
Contribute to a Black-owned organization that supports growth and equality, such as the Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG).
Read profile stories and exclusive interviews of Black artists and designers on 54kibo’s The Summit blog
Support a Black-owned company…and shop!
Explore and learn more about this significant day by reading a book by an African American author, supporting a mission-driven organization that promotes equality by supporting African Americans or buy from a Black-owned business like 54kibo. See our suggestions below that are sure to spark conversation.