Juneteenth, representing June 19th, marks the day that troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce and enforce emancipation for enslaved people. While this historic event is widely known, most people can’t tell you about the importance of this day!
Well, Juneteenth is here, and it’s important to know what it stands for and how it changed our nation. We have compiled five interesting facts about Juneteenth that you might not know about the holiday.
1. Juneteenth was 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
In 1862, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an order that abolished slavery and proclaimed all slaves were to be set free. While this was a monumental moment, the information slowly made its way to the southern states. It wasn’t until 2 ½ years after the proclamation was announced that federal troops made their way to Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865.
Since this is the day the news of the Emancipation Proclamation made its way across the nation, June 19 became the official celebration day! A year later, it would become known as “Juneteenth.”
2. Juneteenth is not recognized as a national holiday.
While Juneteenth is a widely known and celebrated holiday, it is not actually recognized as a federal holiday. Currently, 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize it as a holiday. In 1980, Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday, and afterwards, many other states followed their lead.
In 1997, Congress passed legislation to commemorate June 19, 1865, as “Juneteenth Independence Day” and encouraged its celebration as an opportunity to learn about American history and how that history has shaped our nation today. Despite legislation passed to honor Juneteenth, the federal government has not officially recognized it as a national holiday.
3. Juneteenth has been celebrated by the African American community since 1866.
Although Juneteenth is not recognized as a federal holiday, it has not stopped public celebrations from taking place. In 1866, small Juneteenth celebrations began in church-centered community gatherings. In 1867, the Freedmen’s Bureau organized the first large-scale Juneteenth commemoration. The Freedmen’s Bureau was a government agency established to help newly liberated slaves navigate the aftermath of the Civil War and support them on their path to freedom. In the beginning, Juneteenth was celebrated in the streets of Galveston, TX, because it was difficult to celebrate in public parks due to segregation laws.
In 1872, a group of African American leaders in the community came together and raised $800 to purchase 10 acres of land in Houston, TX. They called this the Emancipation Park, which underwent a $33.5 million renovation in 2016 and was rededicated in the summer of 2017. The renovation helped the architecture tell the story of Juneteenth–the story of oppression, struggle, freedom, and hope.
4. Juneteenth has its own special commemorative flag.
In 1997, Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF), designed the first national Juneteenth commemorative flag. In 2000, the design underwent a revision by Designer L.J. Graf, which is the modern-day flag you will find displayed today.
The commemorative flag is full of symbolism. Its colors, red, white, and blue, symbolize the enslaved and their descendants are American. The bursting star in the middle represents Texas and the newfound freedom bursting throughout the land. The flag represents the importance of African American history and of American freedom for all people.
This year, you will find the Juneteenth flag being raised in commemorative ceremonies throughout our nation. It is a reminder of the struggles of the African American community as they fought for freedom and the importance of being committed to racial equality and justice today.
5. Juneteenth is regaining popularity and recognition.
Today, Juneteenth is celebrated around the world. And this year, people are recognizing its importance and realizing why it should be declared a federal holiday. Social media is providing an outlet for people to educate and inform others about Juneteenth.
Juneteenth has always been a day intended for the celebration of freedom. Today, it is more than just a celebration; it is a time of reflection. It gives us the space to learn more about the significance of this important day and to have conversations with people who come from different backgrounds and experiences. It can be a step toward reconciliation and healing as we strive to achieve racial equality and justice in our world.
This Juneteenth, there is a great opportunity to be here for good and to come alongside those hurting in our community as we celebrate this day of freedom, pray for justice and against racism, and strive to make a difference right where we are.