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Juneteenth National Independence Day

United States of America Flag

June 19

Flag of the U.S.
Poster depicting the emancipation proclamation
Emancipation Proclamation

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) dates to June 19, 1865, the day U.S. General Gordon Granger announced to the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas, that they were officially free. Two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Granger’s decree marked the end of slavery in the rebellious Confederate States.

Even though there were slave owners who were aware of the Emancipation Proclamation’s application, it was not until June 19, 1865, that the Union Army actually enforced it. It took the Emancipation Proclamation, the end of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment to finally end slavery nationwide.

The passage of the law makes Juneteenth the 12th federal holiday. Last time the government added a new holiday to its calendar was in 1983, when the third Monday in January was designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The decision to recognize Juneteenth nationally falls just over a year after the police assassination of George Floyd prompted worldwide protests against systemic racism. This reckoning, coupled with the disproportionate involvement of black Americans in the Covid 19 pandemic and ongoing debates about Confederate commemoration, has led to increased interest in the holiday.

Juneteenth has gone by many names over the years: Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, National Freedom Day, Independence Day, and Black Independence Day. And despite the many names, Juneteenth Day has rivaled other emancipation holidays and has been unfamiliar to many Americans – up until perhaps last year, when wide-scale racial justice protests overlapped with the day.

By 2020, companies committed to anti-racist behavior and many recognized Juneteenth as a corporate holiday. Cities also have taken measures to explicitly recognize Juneteenth Day at the local municipal level. Philadelphia, for example, which hosts one of the largest Juneteenth parades in the country, has passed an ordinance declaring Juneteenth an official city holiday by 2020.

The first Juneteenth celebrations served as political rallies to educate black Americans about their right to vote. Soon these events evolved into full-blown parties with barbecues, rodeos, horseback riding and games. In some areas, black communities, seeing their celebrations relegated to the outskirts of town, raised money to buy their own land; these places were commonly referred to as Emancipation Parks.

Because the Juneteenth story is a very eventful and long-term one, but the national holiday has only existed since 2021, there are still no uniform traditions. So, while many wait for Christmas Eve with a decorated tree and a nativity scene during the Christmas season, the Juneteenth celebrations are very different and depend on the individual. But they all have one thing in common: In the USA there is a lot of food, barbecues, and fireworks on public holidays. Africans or the ancestors of Afro-Americans in the United States also particularly like to use the colors red, black and green. Thus, not only many items of clothing can be seen in these colors, but also other decorative objects. Another possibility, however, is to support a trend that has only recently emerged. For example, there are many websites online that indicate whether the company you are buying from is an African-American company. So, there is at least the option to celebrate and support the Juneteenth in a financial way.


June 19