Held on Sunday, June 19, 2022, Juneteenth is an important holiday in America that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth has been celebrated in many different ways over the years. Some gather for barbecues or neighborhood celebrations with their family and friends, while others choose to spend the holiday going to Black-owned restaurants and businesses or resting and reflecting on the significance of Juneteenth at home.
All can join in celebrating Juneteenth by supporting Black-owned restaurants and businesses, learning more about the history of the holiday, and donating to important organizations that amplify Black voices. Read on to learn more about the history behind Juneteenth and how you can partake in the celebrations this year.
What is the History of Juneteenth?
Celebrated on June 19th each year, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in America. Although Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, more than 250,000 individuals were still enslaved in Texas for several years. Despite Lincoln’s orders, Texas slaveowners didn’t tell their slaves that they were free. On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War had ended and that all enslaved people must be freed. This day became known as Juneteenth.
Why is it called Juneteenth?
“Juneteenth” combines the words “June” and “nineteenth.” It is also often referred to as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, or Jubilee Day.
Is Juneteenth Recognized Nationally?
Juneteenth wasn’t recognized nationally until 2021. Prior to then, 45 states and Washington DC only recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday. Congress passed a bill to make Juneteenth an official national holiday in 2021, which President Biden signed into law. As a result, federal employees now have June 19th off to celebrate.
How to Celebrate Juneteenth This Year:
Attend a Local Celebration
Celebrations will take place across the country in honor of Juneteenth this year. If you live in Chicago, there will be a free family-friendly Juneteenth Extravaganza on Ellis event with music, vendors, games, and food. Additionally, since Juneteenth falls on Father’s Day this year, attend a mini car show and BBQ at the free Lawndale Juneteenth/Father’s Day Celebration (RSVP required).
Celebrate with Books
If you have young children, they will most likely have questions about Juneteenth that may be better answered by reading to them about the importance of the holiday. Some great options include Juneteenth for Mazie and All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom. For adults, book options include On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed and Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. If possible, try to purchase books from Black-owned bookstores when you can (all links provided here are Black-owned bookstores).
Celebrate with Movies
Since Juneteenth falls on a Sunday this year, you may want to spend the day relaxing with family and friends instead of going out. If so, there are some great films that are a meaningful way to celebrate Black culture with your loved ones. Some options include Disney and Pixar’s movie “Soul,” which is a recommended watch with kids, “Remember the Titans,” “Just Mercy,” and “42,” which is about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. A documentary option includes “13th,” which examines how Black people are disproportionately criminalized within American prison systems.
Celebrate with Food
Who doesn’t love celebrating with food? This Juneteenth, search for Black-owned restaurants, bars, and cafes in your area on Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Yelp to dine in or order take-out. If you prefer to cook and learn new recipes, consider buying a cookbook written by a Black author. Food Network and Delish.com both have great lists with top cookbooks written by Black chefs and authors.
There are several dishes that are traditionally served on Juneteenth, and many of them are red, symbolizing the blood that was shed during enslavement. Some items that are often served include red punch, red velvet cake, strawberry soda, and blood sausage. Additionally, in many West African cultures, red is a symbol of strength and spirituality.
Whether you’re eating at home or dining out, take the time to reflect on the history of Juneteenth with those you’re dining with, especially if you have young children. Discuss how historical events have impacted their life to date and take the time to reflect on what the celebration means to you in America today.
Celebrate with Music
In addition to Juneteenth, the month of June also marks Black Music Appreciation Month. Celebrate by listening to Black artists on Spotify and Apple Music.
Celebrate by Giving
If you have the means, consider donating to organizations that help amplify Black voices in America. Some options include the Equal Justice Initiative, which is committed to ending mass incarceration in the U.S. and challenging racial injustice. Other options include the National Urban League, which is a civil rights and urban advocacy organization, and Color of Change, which designs campaigns dedicated to ending discriminatory practices that unfairly harm Black people.
Other Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth
Book a Black-Owned Hotel When Traveling
Travel is on the rise this year, as many feel comfortable staying in hotels and getting on airplanes. Rather than book a standard hotel when traveling, consider staying in a Black-owned hotel or bed and breakfast instead. If you’re traveling within the U.S., former editor-in-chief for Essence magazine, Monique Greenwood, owns a collection of inns in Brooklyn N.Y., Washington, D.C., Philadelphia P.A., Cape May N.J., and Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. While staying at one of the inns, you’ll enjoy a hearty Southern breakfast in the morning, including fish and grits, chicken and waffles, and other delicious items.
Buy Products from Black-Owned Retailers
Shop at Black-owned grocery stores, bookstores, and other retailers in your area. To find Black-owned businesses near you, explore the Black Business Green Book or the Black Directory. Beyoncé also offers a great directory of Black-owned businesses on her website.
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