"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free." —General Gordon Granger, June 19, 1865
This powerful proclamation, stripped down to its most essential point, spawned what we now know as Juneteenth. Freedom Day. Liberation Day. Jubilee Day. Emancipation Day. A day to celebrate, extol, and honor the spiritual resiliency, perseverance, and profound contributions of Black Americans throughout history.
Following a House vote to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, President Biden will sign the bill into law just two days before this year's celebration. This marks the first new federal holiday since the 1983 establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
As the oldest commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth is a day marked by excitement and revelry, celebrating the multilayered significance of freedom and a culture rich with tradition and heritage. For Black Americans, it's mostly about fun and festivities, friends and family, and—as with any celebration worth its salt—food. Backyard barbecues and community festivals, neighborhood picnics and extravagant parades and family reunions and intimate gatherings are all fair game on this joyous occasion.
And at the heart of it all is the deep reverence, pride, and love for a hard-won heritage, a culture that refused to be suppressed even as its people suffered. It lives on, that heritage, and Juneteenth serves as a reminder that Black excellence is something to be celebrated not just once a year, but every single day.
Beyond the Celebration
Juneteenth and the history it sprang from also inspires deeper reflection. While the day itself is one of excitement and celebration, the very fact of its existence is a reminder of some of the darker places we've been as a nation. At the same time, it casts light on the path ahead, illuminating the miles we've yet to go in order to achieve our true potential for greatness as a country. It's a sobering thought, the work that lies ahead—but it's an important reality.
This Juneteenth, take every single moment to savor the food, family, and excitement that are the heart and soul of this special day. The day after, we'll continue the steadfast march toward a brighter future.
These books are a good place to start.