A Brief History of Juneteenth Celebrations

Juneteenth Celebration

As a Black-owned business, acknowledging and celebrating Juneteenth is important to us. Being able to formally celebrate Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday since 2021 is significant, but did you know that this day has been celebrated in Black communities since the mid-1860’s?

Juneteenth is a portmanteau of the words June and Nineteenth. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of the Civil War, and ordered the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. Though the Emancipation Proclamation, which formally freed enslaved people in the United States, was over two years old, Texas had remained under Confederate control. Union troops were few and far between, making emancipation difficult to enforce in deep parts of the Confederacy.

Celebrations for the anniversary of the true beginning of freedom for the enslaved began immediately, in 1866. At first, these celebrations were small and community focused, but spread throughout the South as Black Americans migrated to other parts of the United States. Juneteenth celebrations might include parades, food, performances, and educational events, as well as a time to gather with family and reflect. Despite its widespread migration by the early 20th century, the essence of Juneteenth remained rooted in the local community.

The Great Depression and World War II saw a decline in Juneteenth celebrations, corresponding to the economic hardships and war mentality that the entire nation was facing. However, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s sparked a resurgence of interest. Activists and community leaders recognized the importance of celebrating Juneteenth, both as a celebration of history and culture, and as a cultural morale booster and a symbol of perseverance.

The modern era has seen Juneteenth grow in significance and recognition. Texas became the first state to declare Juneteenth an official state holiday in 1980, leading other states to follow suit. By the 21st century, Juneteenth was celebrated in most states with official events. The Black Lives Matter movement and nationwide protests in 2020 brought renewed attention to Juneteenth, along National Independence Day Act into law on June 17, 2021. Today, I will bet you can find a local celebration of Juneteenth in your town. This event might include the same kinds of fun you see at most summer holiday celebrations – food, parades, cultural displays, local art by Black creators, and more. You will also likely find educational programs, panel discussions, and information about local historical sites related to slavery, as this remains an important part of the history of Juneteenth.

We invite everyone to join us in celebrating Juneteenth, to reflect on its significance, and to continue honoring its legacy. We encourage all businesses who are able to offer federal holidays to include Juneteenth in their days off, to allow all to feel the freedom to celebrate.

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