Juneteenth is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery in the United States and marks the day when news of emancipation reached people in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy in Galveston, Texas on June 19th (Juneteenth) in 1865.
Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, more than two months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, VA. Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation which had been issued more than two and a half years prior on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.
heritage + pride
One year after the announcement, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what would become an annual celebration. Early events were often pilgrimaging to Galveston and political rallies to provide voting instructions to newly freed slaves.
As people moved out of Texas, the celebrations and observation of Juneteenth spread across the country, with more than 200 cities celebrating by 2006. In 1980, Texas became the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday. On June 15th, 2021, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill declaring Juneteenth a legal public holiday.
Today, celebrations often have a cultural and educational element with a focus on teaching black youth about their heritage and black pride with readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs such as “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and writings of Maya Angelou and Ralph Ellison, the author of the novel Juneteenth.
Celebrations range from rodeos and blues festivals to parades and family reunions.
On the heels of the recent Senate decision, we have a lot to celebrate this year. Here are some tips on what to serve:
1. BBQ. At the heart of Juneteenth celebrations is soul food and BBQ. Think pulled pork, brisket, chicken wings and pork chops.
2. Anything Red. The color Red symbolizes the blood shed by former slaves during the fight for freedom. Favorites include red soda, hibiscus punch and strawberry wine are favorites. As are red velvet cake, red beans and rice as well as watermelon.
3. Prosperity foods. All about good luck and black joy, many of these foods were grown during slavery including collard greens and sweet potatoes. Other lucky ones are black-eyed peas, corn and cornbread.
4. A rich heritage of desserts. In addition to red velvet cake, tea cakes are a tradition. A rustic approximation of the fancy cakes made in the front parlors, tea cakes were often made using molasses instead of sugar and resemble more cookies than cake.
So gather your friends and family. Let’s raise the Juneteenth Emancipation Flag symbolizing freedom and justice for African-Americans. Raise your red drink, and let's celebrate Black Joy!