As protests and calls to anti-racist action continue to permeate cities and social feeds, Juneteenth is getting more attention than it has it the past. For many non-Black folks, this may even be the first year even really thinking about Juneteenth—a reality that itself suggests a need to better understand and honor Black history as a nation.
Juneteenth is the annual holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the events of June 19, 1865 (June 19 being combined into “Juneteenth”), a full two months after the end of the Civil War and a whopping two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas, to let the community there know that the war was over and that the enslaved people were now free.
Each year, it’s often marked by events with speakers, picnics, and family celebrations. While this year things may look different because of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean this 155th year will go without notice or celebrating. In fact, recent events mean Juneteenth is more important than ever.
“One thing about national holidays, they help educate people about what the story is,” Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who has been introducing legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday every year, said in a recent interview with Time. “Juneteenth legislation is a call for freedom, but it also reinforces the history of African Americans. We’ve fought for this country. We’ve made great strides, but we’re still the victims of sharp disparities. Our neighborhoods reflect that. We’ve been denied the same opportunities for housing, access to health care, and, in 2020, [during] COVID-19, all of the glaring disparities are shown. Because of that, I think this is a time that we may find people who are desirous to understand the history, not necessarily only of African Americans, but the history of America.”
Juneteenth is all about learning about America’s history and looking toward how to create true freedom and equality for Black Americans. With that in mind, here are a handful of meaningful ways for anyone to celebrate and honor Juneteenth: