This past weekend, United States President Joe Biden officially declared Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday. People across the nation celebrated Juneteenth with festivals, concerts, forums, and more. But what is Juneteenth? What is being celebrated?
Juneteenth, or June 19th, marks the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX to ensure all enslaved people were to be freed, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Though many are under the assumption that the Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves, that is not the case. The proclamation only applied to places under Confederate power. Finally, after the war concluded in 1865, General Granger arrived in Galveston and signaled freedom for Texas’ enslaved, leading to the infamous “Juneteenth” celebration.
Upon emancipation, slaves in Texas immediately celebrated with song, dance, and prayer. One year following, celebrants wore new clothing as a way of expressing and representing their newfound freedom. Present day celebration nationwide derives from the initial conviviality including religious services, speeches, educational events, festivals, dancing, and more.
While celebrating such an imperative holiday, it is important to know that there is still much work to be done. Continue your education around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the history of racial justice, and what else you can get involved with to continue change in our nation. Former President Barack Obama said, “Juneteenth has never been a celebration of victory, or an acceptance of the way things are. It’s a celebration of progress. It’s an affirmation that despite the most painful parts of our history, change is possible—and there is still so much work to do.”