Recognizing and Celebrating Juneteenth
During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862. It became effective on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were freed.
Many planters and other slaveholders had migrated into Texas from eastern states to escape the fighting, and many brought enslaved people with them, increasing by the thousands the enslaved population in the state at the end of the Civil War. By 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.
Despite the surrender of General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1865, the western Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2. On the morning of Monday, June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived on the island of Galveston, Texas to take command of the more than 2,000 federal troops recently landed to enforce the emancipation of its slaves. Granger’s men marched throughout Galveston reading General Order No. 3 first at Union Army Headquarters. Next they marched to the 1861 Customs House and Courthouse before finally marching to the Negro Church on Broadway, since renamed Reedy Chapel-AME Church. The order informed all Texans that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves were free.
Formerly enslaved people in Galveston celebrated after the announcement and the following year, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what became the annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19. Early celebrations were used as political rallies to give voting instructions to newly freed slaves. By the 1890s Jubilee Day had become known as Juneteenth, by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”
The day instantly became an important one to the African American citizens of Texas, who held annual celebrations and even made pilgrimages to Galveston each Juneteenth. The celebrations persisted for more than a century when the day finally received its first official recognition on June 7, 1979, when the Texas Legislature passed a bill declaring Juneteenth a state holiday. Today, 48 states officially observe Juneteenth in some way.
Texas African American History Memorial on the Texas State Capitol grounds in Austin, Texas
The end of legal slavery in the United States is a day to be celebrated by everyone.. A celebration of freedom for any American is a celebration of the ideals on which our country was founded – the belief that we are all entitled to certain inalienable rights.
In this spirit, Brown & Toland is taking specific steps to reaffirm our determination that all our members — regardless of background, culture, or where they live — can achieve their best health. Through working to reduce health disparities, ensuring access to primary care and emphasizing social determinants of health (SDoH), we are working to overcome historic racial and socio-economic disparities in health care.
Though these and other efforts continue, we do not live in a post-racial society as is evident by the ongoing acts of violence and injustice directed toward African Americans, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, the Latinx community and others. When we become sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society. Juneteenth can serve as a means for Americans of every race to remember, learn about and celebrate the nation’s ongoing, but unfinished, aspiration of liberty and justice for all.
Ways to celebrate Juneteenth locally, online and at home
Through the growing popularity of Juneteenth, in cities and towns across the country people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped, and continues to influence, our society today.
Here are a few ways to celebrate Juneteenth this year:
Find an event near you.
Juneteenth is a day filled with rodeos, parades and street fairs. At these events, you can expect music, performances and food. While the pandemic has shifted the way we celebrate, many events are beginning to pop up again this year from Antioch to San Francisco to Stockton.
Host your own backyard party.
No events nearby? Try a small gathering at home instead. The holiday has always been about community and bringing people together. So, fire up the grill and host your own barbecue. Invite your family and friends over and enjoy a day of fun games, delicious food and great music.
Cook some traditional foods.
Nothing says celebration like food, whether it’s the usual barbecue favorites or traditional dishes associated with the holiday (here are a few cookbooks to get you started). Main courses like pork, beef or lamb are typically the stars of the show. Plus most meals are traditionally red to represent the resilience of the enslaved— which is why strawberry soda is a staple at every party. (If cooking isn’t your thing, order from a Black-owned restaurant instead.)
Support Black-owned businesses.
Treat yourself and shop at Black-owned businesses on Juneteenth (and beyond). From coffee and cupcakes to fashion and home goods, show your support to these entrepreneurs.
Listen to Black artists.
Music brings good vibes to any surrounding—plus June is also Black Music Month. Whatever genre you enjoy, put together a playlist highlighting your favorite artists. And if you’re ready to expand your song choices, Spotify has plenty of playlists like Black Lives Matter, Black Girl Magic and The Black Power Mixtape that highlight past and present artists.
Read books written by Black authors and poets.
Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison are just a few iconic Black authors and poets. Also, check out your local Black-owned bookstore (or buy from them online) and browse through their collections. From African American history, including fun picture books (like The ABCs of Black History) to young adult novels (like The Hate U Give) there’s a book out there for the whole family.
“Juneteenth.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth
Candelario, Chelsea. “How to Celebrate Juneteenth This Year.” PureWow, www.purewow.com/family/how-to-celebrate-juneteenth. Accessed 28 May 2021.